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.