Well executed but ultimately unsatisfying, Breaking News centers its cops-and-robbers plot around a clever meta-media twist that nevertheless fails to transcend gimmickry. After photos surface of two Hong Kong policemen getting gunned down during their bungled melee with an armed gang, Inspector Rebecca Hong (Cantopop dance diva Kelly Chen) decides to feed the local news industry a taste of its own glossily packaged medicine; not only will the force capture these crooks, it will put on a “great show” for reporters in the process. Hong fits policemen with pinhole cameras to stream video of the raid, refits a surveillance truck as PR war room, and hires an ad agency spin-meister to help frame their responses. Soon shutter-clicking paparazzi cluster around police trucks en route to the crime scene as if they were celebs heading down the red carpet. Once the raid is under way, the bad guys strike back in kind: When the police hire a film director to re-edit a bungled first attempt as a success, the criminals distribute contrary digital photos via the Internet.
Despite some split-screen shoot-outs and a kids-and-dad hostage situation, Breaking News never develops the level of intensity or suspense its premise promises. Declining an intriguing cinematographic opportunity, director Johnnie To ( Fulltime Killer, Heroic Trio) withholds the cop-cam footage, and given such a high-tech tit for tat, the film’s visuals are surprisingly flat. There’s also a Bush-age allegory lurking beneath the script that’s never fully realized. The police become their own embedded reporters, tap cell phone transmissions, and hack into computers, Hong issues prefab news reports to suit her agenda, and the crooks pull an embarrassing Abu Ghraib via online leakage. In the end, however, Breaking News has nothing to say about this continuation of crime-stopping by other means; it just happens that way, and with little excitement at that.