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A Better Tomorrow II (HK 1987)

Director : John Woo

Cast : Chow Yun-Fat, Ti Lung, Dean Shek, Leslie Cheung, Emily Chu, San Kwan, Kenneth Tsang and Fui-On Shing.

In this sequel, Ho (Ti Lung) initially refuses to go undercover to bust the gang he used to work for in exchange for his release from prison. He only accepts after his little brother, the policeman Kit (Leslie Cheung) accepts the assignment. Meanwhile in New York, Ken Gor (Chow Yun-Fat), the twin brother of Mark Gor from the 1st movie, shelters the boss of the gang, who has had to flee after it is taken over by a more aggressive leadership.

by Edward Tang

When success touches your pocket book and the entire nation of Hong Kong, a sequel is always going to be in the works. That’s how films are, why not make a buck with a successful series? It success is shown in such kickass works as “Once Upon a Time in China II” or “Drunken Master II”, these films taking out the original with break-nut accuracy. Then you have some sequels that tarnish the first quality film (Rocky anybody?) and make you forget that the original is actually a great film because you saw a pile of crap in front of you. But I don’t think Better Tomorrow 2 hurts the record of the first one because it’s a good sequel. Now in saying that, the film fits as a sequel but wouldn’t work by itself because it has a few problems that the first one didn’t have. This film is choppy as hell and they didn’t really focus on the story as much, instead they went the good road and gave us some better action for the day. I think this film is more remembered for the shootout at the mansion more than anything, which alone is worth the price of admission. But anybody looking for something to be on the top of Woo’s best should look somewhere else because he has done better than this ten times over.

The story is a little more complicated than the original, this one has more double crosses and character stories than the first. Not saying complicated in a good way either, there’s just a bunch of random shit going on that really isn’t worth our attention. Woo takes pride in his editing and it seemed that there was a bunch of unnecessary shit going on in this one. Gone is the good storytelling and in comes in a cut up saga that I heard Woo and Hark had problems with on the set. That’s why Hark took on ABT3, and Woo went on to make Bullet in the Head, which is obviously better than this. Anyways, the story is weak in this film, not the interesting transitions in the original (Waise Lee’s character becomes the Boss, Chow Yun Fat becomes the loser and Kit becomes a hard-boiled-still-whining-crying-cop). I’m not saying that I didn’t get into the flick because I did, but there were some dead spots (From Dean Shek’s CRAZY antics with Chow Yun Fat in New York).

After Shek grabs his shit and whatever, they go back to Hong Kong and do a bunch of random shit. Kit gets killed which on turn subjects the boys to take on black suits, ties and Uzis, to get some shit handled. The only real problem I had with this film was the storyline, which was crappy in all aspects. I’m glad that they decided to shoot a basically pointless shootout at the end because it made up for the many dull spots in between. I doubt this film should be called “A Better Tomorrow” rather than “I’m dead, so I can’t see tomorrow so in turn I’m not sure if tomorrow will be better” because that’s the basics for our characters. The gun battles were great, vastly improving on the few in ABT (not really needed but Mark taking out those guys at the tea house? That’s why God invented goosebumps). There’s one in a hallway that mirrors Woo’s Hard Boiled Hospital shootout, which has yet to be fondled as far as I’m concerned. Yes, and the final battle, although a little choppy and corny is one of those cool moments of the film.

But there also were some negative points, a few. I understand that Mark Gor’s popularity couldn’t leave Chow Yun-Fat out of the sequel but I thought that the reasoning for it was a little crappy: “TWIN Brother in New York.” See, since this was more of an action film, I would have accepted “Mark Gor’s worm infested body rose up so he could smell the coinage from the profits of his hundred dollar bill lighting ass.” That was corny to me and to the rice scene we go. Whether it was suppose to be serious or funny, I’ll always consider it some sort of a comedy sketch that Chow really got into. There’s another person to punch, those loser white guys, please enough with the ham (hammin’ it up, got it? Good.) loser, I’ve got enough rice. Then that “cha-ching” sound really got into my colon when “Ken” put on his brother’s coat in a truly tacky fashion. I’m sure people in the theaters were like “Oh so cool” but putting on a coat that has pieces of your brother’s flesh still caked into the pattern doesn’t really make for a good homage, does it? Then to the performance of Dean Shek, a guy who I’ve hated since he was jerking off his wart hair in Drunken Master. This guy ruined some possibly good moments of this film with his bitching and overacting handbook titled “I suck.”

Other than those few things, I guess the acting wasn’t half bad. Ti Lung and Leslie Cheung really never stood out in these films for me and they don’t do anything to improve their situations when they are kind of played off as mild character throughout this film. Chow Yun-Fat is a damn cool guy, especially when he throws off his gun and has that duel with the assassin, classic stuff. The bad guy was a generic old man who found out he had lumps in his anus and decided to get all pissy when they canceled The Maury Povich Show. Once again, both ladies in this film are just thrown into the background and not noticed because Woo doesn’t care about that kind of thing. At least he admits it. I think Chow was basically trying to be cool for this film and didn’t have the passion he admitted from the first, but why? He’s a fucking star now and he doesn’t have to take that shit.

Alas, A Better Tomorrow 2 has quite the reputation especially here in the US which puzzles me. It’s no where near such Woo classics as Hard Boiled, The Killer or Bullet in the Head. And no, it doesn’t even TOUCH the first film in terms of just about everything. Yeah, the gun battle is cool and you love it every single time Chow throws those grenades into the house and makes a funny face! But enough with my sarcasm, there is enough in ABT2 to enjoy and it although it drags in a few places, it’s a fun action flick that misses the mark if we are comparing it to the original. If not, it’s a good entertaining flick and to some it’s good enough.

Plot : 3/5
Acting : 3/5
Entertainment : 4/5
Overall : 3/5

Notable Scenes
- “Eat the damn rice” scene
- The shootout in the hallway
- the final showdown in the mansion

Buy this movie at :   YesAsia – A Better Tomorrow II

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