A Better Tomorrow II
1987 Directed by John Woo. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Chung, Ti Lung, Dean Shek.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 28, 1994
John Woo has remarked that this is one of his worst films, and though that's hardly the case here, it's also worth noting that this certainly isn't one of his best films, either. Pressured into a sequel he would rather have skipped in the first place, Woo (and screenwriter/producer Tsui Hark) seems to have had other things on his mind, and unfortunately, it shows. The story follows two brothers who go undercover to infiltrate a massive counterfeiting scam along the Hong Kong dockside. Kit and Ho befriend ex-gangster-cum-shipping magnate Lung in an effort to get closer to the Hong Kong kingpin, but suddenly the aging con finds himself caught in an elaborate frame-up which forces him to leave the country. The film takes a left turn here, to New York City, where Lung meets up with old pal Ken (Chow Yun-Fat), the owner of a Chinatown restaurant (and identical brother of Mark in the first film!). Eventually, Lung's enemies locate him stateside, but instead of killing him, they opt instead for driving him mad by killing everybody else. Now a drooling idiot, Lung is placed in Ken's care and slowly but surely rehabilitated. There's still another hour left in the film at this point, but why bother going into it here? Hark's script, like many of Hark's films, is a convoluted mess, rife with weird inconsistencies and contrivances, but nevertheless constantly steamrolling ahead like some unstoppable Dr. Seussian juggernaut. Like most Hong Kong films, this whips along at a wild pace, but even John Woo is unable to add much of his usual stylistic panache to the proceedings. The whole thing feels like a rush job, and it shows in the less-than-brilliant set pieces that crop up from time to time. It's too bad Woo has this little blotch on the otherwise immaculate record of his Eighties-period films, but then, even film titans have their off-days, I suppose.