• Sebastian Mann

Shock Wave (2017) Review

You might be quick to dismiss Shock Wave as just another vehicle for star Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs), but you’d be missing out on one of the more uniquely engaging Hong Kong actioners of the past decade if you did.

Lau plays Officer JS Cheung, Bomb Disposal Number One. An expert in diffusing both bombs and tense situations, he’s been sent undercover into a gang run by explosive-wielding, bank-robbing brothers Hung Kai-pang (Jiang Wu) and Hung Kai-piu (Leo Wang).

In the film’s fraught opener, a bank robbery to car chase sequence that is, quite literally, earth-shatteringly loud, Cheung manages to bust the younger Kai-piu, with Kai-pang slipping away amidst the carnage.

Shock Wave's surprisingly effective emotional core helps elevate it above standard genre schlock

A year later, Cheung has been commended for his valiant service to the EOD unit, and has begun to settle down with Carmen Li (Song Jia), a schoolteacher and recent divorcee.

Now covertly working with corporate suits to drive up stock prices, Hung returns under the fantastic alias, ‘Blast’, beginning a bombing campaign that targets the underwater Cross-Harbour Tunnel between Kowloon and Causeway Bay. His true intentions are slowly revealed, as he goes toe-to-toe with the traitor responsible for his brother’s imprisonment.

It promises explosions and shootouts and assuredly delivers, but the best moments in Shock Wave are the quiet ones. It’s a film that absolutely has ‘action set-piece’ written all over it, but it’s got a real, beating heart. It cares less about vapourising city blocks than it does the meticulous, human skill that goes into preventing that from happening.

Certainly, it’s a little overlong at 118 minutes, but its surprisingly effective emotional core helps elevate it above standard genre schlock. When it does finally let rip (and boy does it!), its straight-faced sincerity feels earned and properly rewarding. Fans of the genre will find plenty to love, and newcomers may be quickly won over by its thrilling blend of tension and character.


Shock Wave is available to watch as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined programme.