Young and Dangerous 2
Reviewed by YTSL
After "Young and Dangerous" grossed over HK$21
million and enjoyed a seventy day run at the Hong Kong cinemas, it was
but inevitable that a sequel would be made, and rather quickly. What
surely was not entirely expected though was that the second installment
would outperform the original one at the box office and pave the way for
still more episodes -- the third of which was also made in 1996 -- of what
became a very popular and influential series of films (Perhaps the last
time that this happened was with Tsui Hark's landmark "Once Upon a China"
revitalization of the Wong Fei Hung saga; something which seemingly occurred
a long time ago in Hong Kong's fast-paced, presentist movie-making world).
And it was probably still less anticipated that even while this succeeding
work definitely has links with the first cartoony creation (which contained
ample pictorial reminders of its manga roots), it most definitely is not
of secondary quality when compared to that which introduced movie viewers
to Ho Nam (Ekin Cheng reprises his role), Chicken (Jordan Chan gives a
winning performance in this offering) and assorted others (additional returning
players include Gigi Lai, Jerry Lamb, Michael Tse, Spencer Lam and Simon
Yam) who populate this particular Triad Boyz preponderant world.
In fact, in quite a few ways, it actually surpasses it.
It is rather amazing how the people behind these
movies managed to retain the stylistic sheen of the first film even while
they fashioned a more realistic feel to as well as more complex content
in the second of this series' offerings. It is admirable too how
YOUNG AND DANGEROUS 2 manages to effortlessly alternately or simultaneously
revisit familiar spaces and chart new territory. For example, in
this film, the Hung Hing society -- which Ho Nam and company are accepted
back into – looks to be threatened from within once more by an overly ambitious
faction head. But while the slobby Ah Fei (well portrayed by Anthony
Wong) may initially seem like a trouble-making loose cannon in the mode
of the first movie's Ugly Kwan (memorable played by Francis Ng), he turns
out to not be so archetypally villainous and his actions are consequently
less predictable. Also, while Ho Nam and his cohort find themselves
with business to tend to in Macao again, it is their fate to encounter
new enemies and more complicated situations there than previously.
And even though it falls squarely in the "triad movie" genre, this Hong
Kong film actually additionally ventures into -- and makes some really
interesting satirical and surely not completely off-base comments about
-- the world of Taiwanese politic(ian)s as well as their triads.
IMHO, it was a master stroke for YOUNG AND DANGEROUS
2 to not begin where the original "Young and Dangerous" left off but instead
tell the story of a major character after he temporarily broke ranks from
his childhood companions, then weave it into and link it up again with
those of his buddies. For it seems that in doing so, Andrew Lau (the
film's co-producer and cinematographer as well as director), Manfred Wong
(the other co-producer and co-scriptwriter) and Sheila Hui (the other scriptwriter)
were able to add layers of meaning and details to the known stories and
characters rather than just chronicle further events and social connections
in the lives of still young but increasingly experienced individuals.
Another major innovatory development is that whereas
the first film really did have a "boys gang" feel to it, the focus of that
whose descriptive Chinese title is "Wise Guys II: Mighty Dragon Crosses
River" is changed and narrowed here to Chicken and Ho Nam, their friendship
along with what this means and entails, plus the women they get involved
with (Chingmy Yau portrays a femme fatale who Chicken encounters during
his self-imposed Taiwanese exile while Gigi Lai continues to play Ho Nam's
beloved Smartie) and the complications they bring with them. More
than by the way, I find it interesting that while the straight-laced, conventionally
good looking Ho Nam is clearly the most "heroic" of the young rascals who
we -- the viewers -- are supposed to care for as well as be interested
in, it is the less conformist Chicken who garners the most screen time,
attention and our sympathies (at least for this particular installment).
At this juncture, I must admit to still being
somewhat puzzled as to how and why it is that this series of films can
be somewhat formulaic seeming yet often truly exciting, and so seductive
as well as surprisingly substantive. What I do know is that I had
to majorly fight the urge to pop my copy of "Young and Dangerous
3" into the VCR immediately after finishing watching YOUNG AND DANGEROUS
2. This from someone who is not a general fan of triad-themed movies;
not least because women -- and this particular offering is hardly an exception
-- are so unlikely to prominently figure or fare well in them. As
such, I have to conclude that while undoubtedly flashy, these movies richly
deserve to not be mere flashes in the pan.
My rating for the film: 8.