Joe Lynch, the director of the underrated action flick, Everly, is back with Mayhem, a thriller that may serve as the perfect companion piece to the soon-to-be-released, The Belko Experiment, a Battle Royale-esque film where bloody rage also takes place in an office environment.
Mayhem tells the story of a virus that infects a corporate law office on the day attorney Derek Cho (The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun) is fired after being framed by a co-worker. The infection is capable of making people act out their wildest impulses. Trapped in the quarantined office building, Derek is forced to savagely fight for not only his job, but also his life.
Mayhem also stars Samara Weaving, Dallas Roberts, Claire Dellamar, Kerry Fox, Caroline Chikezie and Steven Brand.
A Poster for Mayhem was recently released, so we expect a Trailer to be popping up soon. Until then, here’s the Trailer for Lynch’s overlooked action flick, Everly:
According to Mike Leeder’s Impact: The Return of Lucky Stars will not only see the return of many of the original Lucky Stars themselves (the original team included Sammo, Richard Ng, John Sham and Eric Tsang), but introduce the next generation of Lucky Stars for further adventures.
Other projects under the Sammo Hung Films banner inlcude I-Ching Warriors, The Detrimental Protectors, Back to School, Silk Road, To Catch a Killer and Operation:Ground Zero.
We’ll keep you updated on these projects as we hear more. Stay tuned!
Tony Jaa (Skin Trade), Tiger Chen (Man of Tai Chi) and Iko Uwais (The Raid 2, Headshot) will equally headline Jesse V. Johnson’s Triple Threat, an upcoming action film that’s best described as a martial arts-themed Expendables.
According to THR, here’s what you can expect from the plot: Triple Threat revolves after a billionaire’s daughter becomes the target of a mercenary cartel. Her only protection are two down-on-their-luck fighters and a third who has vowed revenge against the others. Jaa, Uwais and Chen are the protagonists, while American thespians Adkins, Bisping and White are the villains.
We’ll keep you updated on Triple Threat as we hear more. For now, let’s give Tiger Chen (the lesser-known of the three headlining stars) some props in the trailer for Man of Tai Chi:
AKA: Eighteen Martial Arts Director: Kim Si-hyun Writer: Kim Kyeong-il Cast: Dragon Lee (Mun Kyong-sok), Yuen Qiu, Choi Min-kyu, Baek Hwang-ki, Kim Ki-ju, Kim Ki-ju Running Time: 83 min.
Back when I was first getting into the kung fu genre many years ago, upon witnessing a handful of Korea’s contributions, I confess to being quick to write them off as low budget imitations of Hong Kong’s far superior output. Looking back, I now feel like I jumped to that conclusion in haste, and over the years have become more and more convinced that, far from being imitations of Hong Kong’s own kung fu flicks, the Korean kung fu movie exists in its own quirky little world. Admittedly, many of the countries titles are all but impossible to view in their original language and version, with those readily available being re-titled, re-dubbed and re-cut versions released by Godfrey Ho and Tomas Tang’s Asso Asia distribution company. It was a practice that formed a successful business model in the late 70’s and 80’s, as western audience’s appetite for kung fu movies secured a successful return for these radically altered variations of the original production.
Director Kim Si-hyun’s 1981 movie Eighteen Martial Arts is one such example of this, with the Dragon Lee starring adventure re-titled Dragon, the Young Master for its western release. Si-hyun was no stranger to making kung fu movies, and is a name synonymous with the genre in Korea. His movies were also no stranger to being given the Asso Asia treatment, with his other collaborations with Dragon Lee, such as A Fight at Hong Kong Ranch, being re-titled to Golden Dragon, Silver Snake, and Secret Bandit of Black Leopard being re-titled to Enter the Invincible Hero. Both Si-hyun and Lee had extremely busy years in 1981, with Si-hyun helming 4 productions, and Lee starring in a total of 6 movies, the highest number in his filmography (note the source for these figures is the Korean Movie Database).
The plot for Dragon, the Young Master revolves around the mysterious figure of the Silver Ninja. Indeed the biggest part of the characters mystery is that he’s not silver at all, but rather is distinctive thanks to his all white attire and knitted white balaclava. Yes, if you’re thinking that he’s also technically not a ninja either, you’d be correct. Amusingly, when not involved in any action, the Silver Ninja wears a triangular black hat which covers his whole head, with two holes cut out for the eyes, giving the appearance of a low budget kung fu Darth Vader. Trust me when I say that it’s no spoiler to reveal that the Silver Ninja is Dragon Lee, from the moment he appears on screen and starts gesturing with his head and giving the thumbs down to a group of bandits, it’s blatantly obvious. So for those who want to see Dragon Lee unleashing his kicks while wearing a white balaclava and cape (correct, a cape), you’ve come to the right place.
As with too many Dragon Lee movies to mention, here he plays a wanderer, and as usual, it turns out that he has a secret agenda of revenge. For Dragon, the Young Master he’s paired with kung fu femme fatale Yuen Qiu. While these days Qiu is most well known for playing the landlady in Kung Fu Hustle, it’s worth remembering that she went to the same Opera School as the likes of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, and back in the day certainly had the moves. Interestingly from 1978 – 1981 she appeared in three Korean kung fu movies, all starring alongside Dragon Lee, with the other two being Dragon Lee Vs. The Five Brothers and The Dragon’s Snake Fist. Lee is soon busting the moves on Qiu’s flower seller, and performs an impressive fight scene against a group of thugs harassing her, were he keeps a white rose between his teeth from start to finish.
Qiu thankfully isn’t relegated to a damsel in distress role, and proves that she’s more than capable of handling herself, eventually teaming up with Lee that sees her on equal action footing with her co-star. The contrast between the pairs fighting styles is one of the highlights of Dragon, the Young Master, with Lee’s trusty mantis fist and Taekwondo kicks nicely offset by Qiu’s acrobatic flourishes and handwork. As with any Korean kung fu movie, the action comes thick and fast, and the heroic pair get to take on pretty much a who’s who of Korean kung fu talent of the era. Taking on both fight choreographer duties, and playing the main villain of the piece, is Choi Min-kyu, an actor who I’d dare say has made an appearance in every Korean kung fu movie I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot). Throw in plenty of familiar faces such as Baek Hwang-ki and Kim Ki-ju, and any fan of Korean kung fu cinema from the era definitely won’t be left wanting.
One point that becomes clear as soon as you start watching Dragon, the Young Master, is that it appears to have been filmed in the depths of the Korean winter. If the visible breath didn’t give it away, then the snow covered landscapes certainly do. Thankfully the wardrobe department have given Lee more than his standard white t-shirt to wear this time around, and the winter setting does allow for a great one-on-one fight featuring Lee at the 30 minute mark, which takes place on a snow covered frozen lake. I wasn’t able to identify who Lee is fighting against, however he provides a worthy opponent for Lee’s skills. The fact that they’re fighting on ice introduces the unique sight of them sliding at each other rather than charging, and there’s some nice exchanges. The same fight also highlights the comedic elements of the movie, with Lee at one point crouching down between the legs of his opponent, and unleashing a barrage of head butts to the nether regions.
An equal amount of comedy is conveyed through the often hilarious dubbing. The line “You’re the Silver Ninja!” must be delivered to Lee over 100 times, and rarely a minute goes by without someone being called a fool, bastard, or being asked if they’re tired of living (a staple line of almost every Asso Asia dubbed movie). The intentional comedy doesn’t fare quite as well, and there are some cringe inducing scenes to suffer though, one in particular which sees a thug adorn his head with a pair of horns, and proceed to charge at Lee while he waves a table cloth like a matador. Luckily though these scenes are in short supply, with some nonsensical dubbing always just around the corner to bring proceedings back on track. A highlight sees a group of bandits return to Min-kyu after being heavily defeated, to which he bellows at one of them “Look into my eyes!” Immediately after doing so, the bandit drops dead. However this seemingly supernatural power is never touched upon again, it looks like the dubbing crew just threw it in there for fun as it fit the scene.
The finale eventually builds to a showdown which sees Lee and Qiu team-up to take on a sword wielding Min-kyu and his brother, played by Kim Ki-ju (decked out in a bow-tie combo, which is never explained). It’s a lengthy fight, which for the most part has Lee and Qiu perform empty handed, however mid-way through Qiu does arm herself with a pair of daggers, and Lee also reveals an extendable fencing sword – think Donnie Yen’s extendable baton from SPL. Bizarrely, Lee only uses it to gain the upper hand, and once he has it (about 20 seconds later) immediately throws it away, a decision that I found to be as hilarious as it was random. The finale also allows for Lee to go into wild mode, with some seriously intense head shaking and chicken clucking going on. Even Qui gets in on the madness, at one point deciding to head butt everyone instead of simply punching or kicking them. Needless to say, by the time the pair are ferociously ripping Min-kyu’s clothes off, there’s no doubt that it could only be a Korean kung fu flick.
While Dragon, the Young Master doesn’t quite rank up there with Lee and Si-hyun’s previously mentioned collaborations, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with it. From location spotting (eagle eyed viewers will notice the Lee and Qiu throwdown against Min-kyu is in the same temple that features in Secret Ninja, Roaring Tiger), to the hilarious dubbing, to a manic finale that sees Lee crank it up to 11. For fans of Dragon Lee, there should be no hesitation to check this out, and for everyone else, as long as you remember that white is the new silver, there should be something to enjoy as well.
Hong Kong actor/filmmaker Nick Cheung (The White Storm) is stepping out of his comfort zone by making a gangster-themed movie called Taste of Crime, which will serve as his 3rd directorial project. You may recall that his first two features – 2014’s Hungry Ghost Ritual and 2015’s Keeper of the Darkness – were both horror genre films.
Plot details on Taste of Crime are thin, but judging from the film’s new Trailer (below) audiences can expect stylish, bleak thriller with shades of explosive action. Also highlighted is a little girl that is apparently being protected by Cheung’s character, which makes one think Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional or Lee Jeong-beom’s The Man from Nowhere (or for you Bollywood fans, Rocky Handsome).
Without further ado, check out the film’s Trailer below (via AFS):
Max Zhang – the rising star of The GrandmasterS.P.L. IIand Ip Man 3 – is revisiting danger in The Brink, an upcoming thriller by first-time director Jonathan Li.
The Brink follows a group of fishermen who smuggle gold and the cops who chase them. It’s reported that the film will feature an extensive amount of Thunderball-esque underwater action sequences. In the film, Zhang sports blonde hair, just like James Tien did in 1973’s Seaman No. 7, which also featured underwater action sequences (see trailer below).
Australian actor George Lazenby has an upcoming documentary film about his life called Becoming Bond (the film was previously known as This Never Happened to the Other Fella – a title that’s a direct reference to his fourth-wall breaking line in the opening sequence of On Her Majesties Secret Service, his one and only outing as James Bond).
The stranger-than-fiction true story of Lazenby, a poor Australian car mechanic who, through an unbelievable set of circumstances, landed the role of James Bond in 1969, despite having never acted a day in his life. Then after being offered the next seven Bond films and a $1 million signing bonus, he turned it all down…
The Gangster | aka Antapal | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)
Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Kongkiat Khomsiri’s The Gangster (aka Antapal). Set in the 1960s, The Gangster is based on the true story of a notorious gangster and the origins of the Bangkokian mafia.
The Gangster is based on the notorious Bangkokian gangs of the 1950s-60s. The story follows a newly released prisoner who desires to live Straight, but knowing nothing else but the life of a gangster, he returns to his old gang.
The film contains documentary segments in which old-timers from that era are interviewed and talk about criminal activity.
In addition to Jesse V. Johnson’s Triple Threat, which is being described as an Asian Expendables-type flick starring Tony Jaa (Skin Trade), Angelababy (Mojin: The Lost Legend), Tiger Chen (Man of Tai Chi) and Iko Uwais (The Raid 2), there’s another high profile martial arts film in-the-works that Jaa is co-starring in called Paradox (aka Fate).
Directed by Wilson Yip (Ip Man 3) and produced by Soi Cheang (SPL II), Paradox stars Louis Koo (League of Gods) as a police negotiator who travels to Bangkok to search for his teenage daughter and is aided by local detectives played by Jaa and Wu Yue (Journey to the West).
“Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids” Theatrical Poster
With Erik Matti’s Buy Bust and Pedring Lopez’ Breachin early stages of production, a new film titled Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids is definitely a taste of what’s yet to come in the world of Filipino martial arts cinema.
“My main motivation in doing Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids is to improve the appreciation of Filipino martial arts. We have to change people’s perspective about it,” prizefighter-turned-filmmaker Vincent Soberano (Police Story: 2013) told MB, who also stars in the film.
“They’ve used Filipino martial arts in blockbuster action films like John Wick, Jason Bourne,Frankenstein, and a huge list of other films, but no one knows its Filipino because its always portrayed by Hollywood stars. It’s about time I did,” Soberano recently stated (via CB).
Blood Hunters also stars John Arceo (Amok), Janice Hung (Wansapanataym) and Taekwondo Olympian-turned-Makati Congressman Monsour Del Rosario (Techno Warriors, Bloodfist II).
Hopefully Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybridswill pop up in some way, shape or form for the rest of the world to see, but until then, here’s the film’s newest Teaser (via CB):
Tom Cruise, eat your heart out. Louis Koo (Accident) and Lau Ching Wan (The Bullet Vanishes) are doing the powered exoskeleton thing with Warriors of Future (previously known as Virtus), an upcoming sci-fi action flick that may possibly be Hong Kong’s answer to all that Halo, Robocop and Edge of Tomorrow stuff.
On May 2, 2017, Funimation will be releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for Black Butler, an 2014 action fantasy film by directors Kentaro Otani (Go, Masao!) and Keiichi Sato (Asura).
Inspired by the hit anime series Black Butler, this live-action adaptation brings an all-new story featuring a familiar demon butler doing what butlers do best: helping their masters seek revenge. The Black Butler is back—and there’s an all-new mystery to be solved. It’ll take one hell of a butler to figure it out!
Black Butler stars Hiro Mizushima (Beck), Ayame Gouriki (Gatchaman), Mizuki Yamamoto (Sadako vs Kayako), Yuka (Reincarnation) and Takuro Ohno (Liar Game: Reborn).
When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth. With Hong Kong island under quarantine and the walking dead roaming the streets, small pockets of survivors struggle to stay alive. But when the authorities learn of a potential cure located somewhere within the city, a lone warrior must battle the undead with the fate of mankind in his hands…
That’s the plot for Noriko: The Hong Kong Dead, an upcoming zombie action thriller produced by Mike Leeder (Ultimate Justice, Helios), Spencer Douglas (CFK) and Arne Venema (Neon Grindhouse: Hong Kong), who is directing the movie under the guidance of Vincent Dawn and Dan Findlay. The film stars Hong Kong-based indie actor Joe Fiorello (Love Stalk) and features visual effects by Matthew Blaize.
“Noriko is very much a Hong Kong Grindhouse project, it’s a zombie movie that wears its influences very heavily on its blood stained sleeves; we’re trying to capture that George Romero meets early 80s John Carpenter-feel for the movie, run through a very Hong Kong tilted filter,” says Leeder. “Watch out for some very familiar faces glimpsed amongst the Zombie hordes,” he adds.
Vincent Dawn admits: “I want to make a film about a man on a mission in a city of the undead where the living post as much of a threat as those who should be in the ground… and my zombies don’t f##king run!”
Watch the film’s Teaser Trailer below:
For the latest on the project, visit the film’s official Facebook page.
“Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury” Blu-ray Cover
Cityonfire.com and Severin Films are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Return of Kung Fu: Trailers of Fury to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, comment on the video below:
We will be selecting a winner at random. Be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field so we can contact you for your home address. Additionally, you must ‘Like Us‘ on cityonfire.com’s Facebook by clicking here.
The Blu-ray & DVD for Return of Kung Fu: Trailers of Fury will be officially released on March 14, 2017. We will announce the 3 winners on that day.
CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by March 14, 2017 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.
In addition to the upcoming thriller, The Foreigner, and a small part in Journey to China– not to mention the newly announced Five Against a Bullet – the legendary Jackie Chan is tapping into the sci-fi genre with Bleeding Steel, a big budget actioner written and directed by Leo Zhang (Chrysanthemum to the Beast).
In Bleeding Steel, Chan stars as a hardened special forces agent who fights to protect a young woman from a sinister criminal gang. At the same time, he feels a special connection to the young woman, like they met in a different life.
AKA: Secret Agent Director: Kim Ji-woon Cast: Goo Uoo, Song Kang-Ho, Han Ji-Min, Um Tae-Goo, Shin Sung-Rok, Seo Young-Joo, Lee Byung-Hun, Shingo Tsurumi, Heo Sung-Tae, Kim Dong-Young Running Time: 140 min.
By Martin Sandison
I remember going to see Kim Ji-woon’s A Bittersweet Life back when it came out, and thinking: This is something special. An artistic aesthetic, but with populist entertainment at its heart. I then saw The Good, the Bad and the Weird, and here was the apotheosis of his approach. Finally, his masterpiece, I Saw The Devil, veered into a dark, but ultimately rewarding territory. Unfortunately, his American effort, The Last Stand, sanitised much of what had gone before, despite the fact it was a fun watch. Now, Kim is back in South Korea with his most lavish production to date, one that carries on his vision, but also falls short in some areas.
Screening in the Glasgow Film Festival, Age of Shadows benefits from a big screen viewing, not least because of the riveting action scenes. Also the movie features some of the best male Korean acting talent with Song Kang Ho, Gong Yoo and Lee Byung Hun (in a cameo appearance) all sharing the screen.
Song plays Lee Jung-chool, a high ranking officer who has defected from the Korean resistance and takes his orders from Japanese overlords. Song finds himself being pulled back in to the resistance thanks to circumstance, his conscience and resistance fighters Che-san (Lee Byung Hun) and Kim Woo-jin (Gong Yoo). They both manipulate him into helping them, and thus sets in motion a plot with plenty of twists and turns.
With the bravura opening scene, Kim sets out his stall; action choreographed with the eye of a genius and complex character design conveyed through this activity. The show-stopping set pieces on show some of the most intricately designed in recent history, and make a case for Kim being THE action filmmaker of our time. What makes them special is the combination of tension, technique and character depth within each sequence. The centrepiece scene is on a train, and it is so crammed with the above, it bursts at the seams.
Gong Yoo shows much more acting chops than a pretty one-note performance in Train to Busan, with more noteworthy scenes, especially towards the end. Song Kang Ho proves yet again he is one of the best leading actors in the business, and tackles the development of his character with aplomb. Despite being a glorified cameo, Lee Byung Hun’s role is a pivotal one with his charisma intact. A mid-film scene, featuring all three is glorious, as they drink from a seemingly neverending barrel of wine – in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, this could have been the best thing about the movie; Kim handles each character and situation with such mastery that there are numerous stand out scenes. Special mention goes to Um Tae-Goo as Hashimoto, in a seriously creepy and physical performance as one of the Japanese officers. However, there are a couple of Western actors in small roles who come close to Hong Kong movie levels of terrible acting.
The gloss of the film can be a bit stifling at times (it’s the first Korean Warner Brothers co-production), with little edge compared to Kim’s greatest work, I Saw The Devil. Also, the opening half hour is pretty hard to follow, with multiple characters introduced and plot strands piling up.
The Age of Shadows certainly is an exhilarating ride, and has some thematic and historical depth. This approach is one reason why South Korea is making some of the best movies at the moment, and long may it continue.
Famed Hong Kong star Lau Ching Wan (Call of Heroes) looks to be getting back to the gritty, grimy world of gangsterism in Drug Warn (previously known as The Fixer), an upcoming film from director Lawrence Lau (My Name is Fame).
AFS describes the Drug Warn as a true-crime drama about a Hong Kong gangster gone good. We cannot help but think of Lau’s Too Many Ways to Be Number One,or any of his other Milkyway titles made in the era were Lau was at his best.
On March 7th, Thomas J. Churchill’s all-star actioner, Check Point, will be unleashed on practically all streaming platforms, as well as DVD at major retail outlets, including Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon.com, Netflix, Redbox and Military Base shops.
Check Point is about a sleeper cell terrorist plot that is discovered in a small town where everyone knows one another, or so they thought they did. As justice seems lost, when an insurgent attack threatens to escalate into a full-blown invasion of the US, a team of unlikely heroes must rise up to fight the enemy and protect their beloved country.
Check Point features an ensemble cast consisting of WWE Universal Champion Bill Goldberg (Universal Soldier: The Return), William Forsythe (Out for Justice), Mel Novak (Game of Death), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th films), Tyler Mane (Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s Halloween), Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (Fist of Fear, Touch of Death), Former UFC Champion John Lewis (Sons of Anarchy), Krista Grotte (The Rack Pack), Kenny Johnson (The Shield) and the late Ricky Harris (Heat).
Don’t miss the film’s Trailer below and witness low budgetness at its finest:
“The Devotion of Suspect X” Chinese Theatrical Poster
China Lion Film Distribution has announced the release Alec Su’s (The Left Ear) The Devotion of Suspect X in the U.S. on March 31st. The feature is based on Keigo Higashino’s award-winning novel.
The Devotion of Suspect X follows a professor (Wang Kai of Railroad Tigers) assisting in a murder investigation, only to find that a longtime rival and friend (Zhang Luyi of The Chef, the Actor, the Scoundrel) from his early university days may be involved. The film also stars Ruby Lin, Hou Minghao, Yan Xujia and Ren Xiqing.
The novel was previously made into a Japanese feature of the same name, directed by Hiroshi Nishitani, and a Korean feature entitled Perfect Number, directed by Bang Eun-jin.
Watch the Trailer for The Devotion of Suspect X below:
Director: Longman Leung, Sunny Luk Writer: Longman Leung, Sunny Luk Cast: Aaron Kwok, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Chow Yun-Fat, Charlie Young, Janice Man, Eddie Peng, Aarif Rahman, Tony Yang, Chang Kuo-chu, Wu Yue Running Time: 110 min.
By Kyle Warner
The 2012 Hong Kong crime film Cold War created a lot of buzz before its release and, at least in the West, did not seem to maintain that buzz once it reached audiences. It’s a good looking film, headlined by some of Hong Kong’s finest actors, and being a crime movie full of betrayal, it’s exactly the sort of thing that Hong Kong usually does so well. Personally, I found it to be an overstuffed, poorly paced thriller that lacked character development but had enough plot for two movies. Still, I was not totally against the idea of the sequel promised at the end of the first film. And when superstar Chow Yun-Fat was added to the sequel’s cast, I was like yep, consider me interested.
In the original, a bombing was used as a distraction to steal a police van and abduct five police officers. With Michael Wong’s police commissioner out of the country, the task of bringing the criminals to justice fell to rival cops Sean Lau (Aaron Kwok) and M.B. Lee (Tony Leung Ka Fai). Lau and Lee battled each other almost as much as the criminals, while also dealing with suspicions about a mole in the police force.
Cold War 2 picks up not long after the original, with Sean Lau now the police commissioner, M.B. Lee recently retired from his post, and the police van still missing. When one of the surviving villains from the first film abducts Lau’s wife and demands the release of an incarcerated ally, Lau has a difficult choice of whether to put family before public safety. Ultimately, Lau decides to do all that he can to save his wife, but the operation ends with the bad guys getting away and structural damage to a public place. The sharks smell blood in the water when Lau is put on trial for misusing his office’s powers.
Unlike most cop dramas, the Cold War films focus primarily on the high-ranking men and women in suits as opposed to the officers on the streets. Most of the action takes place in sleek, ultra-modern interiors as well-dressed A-list actors shout at one another and plot political maneuvers to unseat their rivals from power. And when Lau’s position is made vulnerable, the elites in Hong Kong set about removing him from power and installing a man of their own: M.B. Lee.
In a cast that included Aaron Kwok, Andy Lau, Eddie Peng, and Charlie Yeung, it was Tony Leung Ka Fai (League of Gods) that stole the show in Cold War. M.B. Lee was the most interesting character in the first film, thanks to Leung’s performance, his interesting look, and a script that allowed the character to operate in a gray zone between hero and villain. Lee begins Cold War 2 as a more reasonable man, but when he sees the opportunity to throw Lau from his throne Lee becomes a less interesting, more undeniably villainous character.
Power plays and secret meetings between Lee and Hong Kong’s secret elite push Cold War 2 into less believable territory than its predecessor. But I won’t complain about that because overall I found it to be a more focused, more entertaining storyline than the first film. Lau wants to defend his position at the top, Lee wants to see Lau disgraced, and both have loyalists within the police force who want to see either side succeed. Then the courts get involved and the intense legislator Mr. Kan (Chow Yun-Fat) starts investigating both parties, complicating matters for everyone involved.
Because I thought that Leung’s M.B. Lee took a step back in the sequel and that Aaron Kwok’s Lau was never particularly interesting, Chow Yun-Fat’s Kan makes for a very welcome addition, here playing the character with the most depth and humanity. The cast, in general, ably plays their parts in a film where plot came well before character, but Kan is actually fleshed out. And though it might’ve been cool to see Chow involved the action sequences, he’s quite likable as the smart law man.
Chin Kar Lok serves as the film’s action director and Cold War 2’s three major sequences are all quite good. The shootout in the tunnel motorway is especially thrilling. Cold War 2 is not the non-stop thrill ride that Hong Kong action junkies may be looking for. But thanks to Chin Kar Lok and a willing cast, the action we do get is full of surprises and crazy close calls.
I liked Cold War 2 more than the original. Unlike the first film, the sequel isn’t trying to do everything at once. It’s not a perfect film, though, and I wish that the screenplay had been given another pass. Some characters could be deleted, others expanded on. And because many characters are introduced with a name and title graphic that’s competing with dialogue subtitles, I found myself pausing the movie a few times so that I could best keep track. (A personal beef of mine is when a film thinks offering a character name and job title is enough to make that character memorable to an audience.)
Overall though, it’s an enjoyable crime thriller with a slick look and a cool cast of Hong Kong favorites. A potential Cold War 3 is hinted at in the finale, and though I’m willing to offer a lukewarm recommendation for the second film to curious film buffs, I can’t help but hope that perhaps the third time’s the charm.
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