MAAC Review: CHASING THE DRAGON 2 – WILD WILD BUNCH

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With a filmography filled with lowbrow comedies, rape revenge thrillers and B level action movies, Wong Jing is not the first name that normally comes to mind when one thinks of quality cinema. However, every now and again the odd classic gets through, with the likes of God of Gamblers (1989), Casino Tycoon (1992) and I Corrupt All Cops (2009) all being fine examples of Hong Kong cinema.

Jing has many detractors, but for the most part I would say I am a fan. As well as creating the popular God of Gamblers series he also helped establish the careers of comedy superstar Stephen Chow Sing-Chi and director Andrew Lau.

More recently he teamed up with co-director Jason Kwan to direct Chasing the Dragon (2017), which turned out to be one of Jing’s best films in years.  A change of pace for leading man Donnie Yen, it proved to be one of his finest acting performances to date. The film was further bolstered by the star power of fellow superstar Andy Lau. 

With the success of the first film, it is no surprise that Jing has decided to continue with the series. Chasing the Dragon 2: Wild Wild Bunch (2019), is an in name only sequel with no real ties to the first film other than a focus on the world of crime. This is not unusual, as Hong Kong cinema has been doing this for years. Great series’ like Long Arm of the Law and more recently the Sha Po Lang series all feature different characters and plotlines, with them only being linked thematically. 

Similar to the first movie, the plot of Chasing the Dragon 2 takes its inspiration from a real life criminal case. This time it is based on a series of kidnappings that took place in Hong Kong in the mid 1990’s, although it is obvious the filmmakers have taken some dramatic licence with the actual events.

Tony Leung Ka-Fai portrays Logan Long, a notorious criminal known to the police for a spate of kidnappings. Due to a lack of evidence, Long continues to walk free, enabling him to commit further crimes. 

In order to catch him, police inspector Li Qiang (Simon Yam) decides to send in reluctant undercover cop Sky He (Louis Koo), to infiltrate Long’s gang and bring him to justice.

Unlike the first film, which was more of a crime bio-pic, Chasing the Dragon 2 is a more straight up crime thriller. With a tight 100 minutes run time, it is considerably shorter than its predecessor. Jing and Kwan make sure to keep things moving at a quick pace, with events becoming increasingly tense as the plot progresses. 

Clearly made on a lower budget than the first entry, there is no rebuilding of old Kowloon here. Period detail is mainly confined to the usage of old school technology with dated computers and mobile phones that are the size of a brick. It makes a nice change to see a thriller without an over reliance on modern technology. 

Even with a lower budget, Chasing the Dragon 2 still looks suitably glossy, with Jason Kwan’s additional work as DOP shining through. 

The script by Jing, Lui Koon-Nam and Chan Kin-Hung is mostly straight forward, with no un-needed subplot’s weighing the story down. Whilst the characters are more one note than preferred, the starry cast mostly make up for any shortcomings.

Unsurprisingly, Tony Leung Ka-Fai is at his charismatic best as the ruthless Logan Long. Unlike Donnie Yen’s crippled Ho in the first film, who was more of an anti-hero, Long is an out and out villain. He does have his own set of values, however misguided they may be. For example, when one of his men’s wives die, he offers his own woman as consolation. Long seems oblivious why this would be inappropriate. Leung Ka-Fai has worked with Jing many times throughout his career. He showed his funny side in Boys are Easy (1993) and God of Gamblers Return (1994) but also showed his dramatic chops in the previously mentioned I Corrupt All Cops

Leung Ka-Fai may get top billing, but this is as much Louis Koo’s movie with the plot being told from his point of view. This is the best Koo has been in some time, with his character increasingly on the edge. One particularly memorable scene has Koo attempting to diffuse a bomb strapped to him, with the actor going through a gamut of emotions. With nary a word spoken, the fear and tension can be read on Koo’s face. 

Like Leung Ka-Fai, Koo has worked with Wong Jing numerous times throughout his career, with varying degrees of quality. For Bad Boys Only (2000), Conman in Tokyo (2000) and On His Majesty’s Secret Service (2009) just being a few of the Jing productions Koo has appeared in. 

Always busy, Koo still has a number of films to be released this year, with The White Storm 2: Drug Lords (2019) and the long awaited Warriors of Future (2019) amongst them. 

With less screen time than his co-stars, Gordon Lam manages to impress as Doc, who has his own reasons for remaining in Long’s gang. 

As well as the leading characters, there is the always reliable Simon Yam. Even with a guest starring credit, Yam gets a fair amount of screen time, adding some needed humour to proceedings. 

Being mostly a male centric story, there is little in the way of strong female characters. Sabrina Qui plays the type of role that can be found in many of Jing’s back catalogue. She does have some fun scenes alongside a cameoing Michael Wong, who plays a sleazy businessman Long is planning to kidnap. It is the kind of role Wong Jing would probably have played himself in the past.

In comparison to the first movie, there is less action with the majority taking place during the final excitement filled 30 minutes. The violent shootout and the ensuing car chase are capably handled by action choreographer Huang Ming-Jian (A.K.A. Wong Min-Kin), with Thomson Ng Hoi-Tong handling the car stunts. 

Having assisted on such films as The Warlords (2007) and Call of Heroes (2016), this is Huang’s most high profile solo job to date. While the action does not live up to the first entry, it is still of a high quality. Ng Hoi-Tong on the other hand has worked on many high profile movies, more recently on the likes of Herman Yau’s The Leakers (2018) and Chin Ka-Lok’s Golden Job (2018).

Chasing the Dragon 2: Wild Wild Bunch is a must see for fans of action and crime thrillers, with giving Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Louis Koo giving their best performances in some time. Do not let the lack of Donnie Yen or Andy Lau this time around put you off. Here’s to ‘Chasing the Dragon 3’.

Plot: 3.5/5
Acting: 4/5
Action: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.8/5

Written by Guest Reviewer: Darren Murray (Facebook Profile)

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