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Film / PTU

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Sergeant Mike Ho (Simon Yam) ready for duty.

Police Tactical Unit (PTU) is a 6-movie series produced by Johnnie To's studios, Milkyway Image, starring Johnnie To regulars Simon Yam and Lam Suet, as officers of the Kowloon West Police Station Police Tactical Unit.

The series kicks off with the release of the first movie, PTU: Police Tactical Unit in 2003, directed by Johnnie To. The main character, Sergeant Mike Ho (Yam) of the Hong Kong Police Department have to assist his chubby, accident-prone colleague and OCTB officer, Sergeant Lo Sa (Lam) to find his missing police revolver, and end up uncovering a gunrunning plot which they have only one night to thwart. The movie is notable for its portrayal of Hong Kong Police Officers' willingness to bend the rules to achieve results of their investigations.

The movie notably won Johnnie To and Simon Yam the Golden Bauhinia Awards and Golden Horse Film Festival and Award for directorial and acting efforts.


Five sequels were made, with Simon Yam and Lam Suet reprising their roles. Although Johnnie To serves as producer for all the movies, he only directed the first.

The entire series, listed in chronological release order, are as such:

  • PTU - Police Tactical Unit (2003), directed by Johnnie To (who produced all six films)
  • Tactical Unit: The Code (2008), directed by Wing-cheong Law
  • Tactical Unit: No Way Out (2009), directed by Lawrence Ah Mon
  • Tactical Unit: Human Nature (2008), directed by Andy Ng
  • Tactical Unit: Partners (2009), directed by Lawrence Ah Mon
  • Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms (2009), directed by Wing-cheong Law


This series of movies contains the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Maggie Siu’s Officer Cat, who can kick as much ass as the male officers.
  • Anti-Hero: Sergeant Ho, who despite being a Reasonable Authority Figure, is also willing to break the rules occasionally.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Sergeant Ho is the leader of his team, and the best fighter and sharpshooter of the lot.
  • Badass Crew: The titular PTU (Police Tactical Unit) team.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: A shootout in the second movie happens between the PTU and a group of thugs in a derelict church.
  • Breather Episode: Appropriately enough, the sixth and last movie in the series, Tactical Unit: Partners, which is a slow-moving character study about diaspora, revolving around two Indian brothers being forced into a life of crime in Hong Kong. Its mostly devoid of action or violence, and is more of a drama film with minimal involvement from the PTU. In fact, the final Mexican Standoff ends literally without a single bullet fired, and nobody gets hurt or killed throughout the film.
  • Butt-Monkey: Sergeant Lo Sa tends to be the most accident-prone member of the HKPF, including constantly getting the snot beaten out of him, suffering head injuries, losing his gun in Police Tactical Unit, becoming a hostage in Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms, and narrowly losing his job in Tactical Unit: Human Nature.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The first movie climaxes with Sergeant Ho leading his crew of five (himself included), against Boss Ngan and six gunrunners. The PTU team is armed with their standard police Model 10 revolvers, while the gunrunners’ arsenal includes AK-47 assault rifles. The shootout occurs in an open street. And yet the PTU can take down all the gunrunners in the subsequent shootout without a single casualty (as in, not even a single scratch from the bullets).
  • Darkened Building Shootout: Climax of Tactical Unit: Human Nature, where a drug deal in a warehouse is interrupted when Sergeant Fat Lo cuts the power source of the building. Although instead of plunging the whole area into darkness, the lights end up flickering resulting in Epileptic Flashing Lights instead.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Resident Butt-Monkey Lo Sa managed to have the episode Tactical Unit: Human Nature dedicated for himself, with him getting more character development than most of the cast including Sergeant Ho, including a Big Damn Heroes moment where he marches into a group of enemy gangsters with dual pistols and firing away, taking names Chow Yun-fat style!
  • Drugs Are Bad:
    • The fourth movie, Tactical Unit: No Way Out have a recovering druggie, Mang, trying to get over his addiction while being pursued by drug dealers he owes money to.
    • The fifth movie, Tactical Unit: Human Nature, exclusively deals with drug traffickers. One scene even had Sergeant Lo Sa making a speech about the effects of drugs in front of a bunch of schoolchildren, against his will.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The first movie, which takes place entirely in a single night.
  • Fan Disservice: Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms have a bathroom scene where Sergeant Lo Sa (played by the chubby actor Lam Suet) walking around half-naked, with bulging beer gut flapping about, as he is about to change from his pajamas into uniform.
  • Fat Comic Relief: Sergeant Lo Sa, also a bumbling Fat Idiot.
  • Fish out of Water: Tactical Unit: Partners deals with the diaspora of a pair of Indian siblings trying to eke a living in Hong Kong while working as foreign laborers before being forced into a life of crime.
  • A Father to His Men: Seargeant Ho considers his fellow PTU officers as family and brothers-in-arms, instead of mere underlings.
  • Going Cold Turkey: Mang, a recovering drug addict in Tactical Unit: No Way Out, goes through this phase after being detained by the PTU.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The police and criminals of the original movie, which are portrayed as willing to cheat, forge evidence, and even instigate internal fighting for position.
  • Guns Akimbo: Sergeant Lo Sa in the climax of Tactical Unit: Human Nature.
  • In-Series Nickname: Sergeant Lo "Fat" Sa.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Used by Sergeant Ho in the first movie, by repeatedly slapping a punk while interrogating him in a video arcade.
  • Jungle Warfare: Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms, where the PTU team hunts down a group of bandits taking cover in a dense forest region. It culminates into the bandits escaping into a rural church for the final shootout.
  • Mexican Standoff: Happens Once an Episode, with varying results.
  • The Stoic: Sergeant Ho, who remains straight-faced and emotionless when caught in gunbattles, interrogating suspects, engaging suspects in foot chases, but he’s only stoic when on duty.