Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch

I understand why AMC booked this out of the two Asian gangster movies Well Go had opening this week - they're next to Chinatown, not a Korean neighborhood, and Ma Dong-seok has not quite broken through here yet. Still, that one seems to have people excited while this seems to be a bit of a letdown. Of course, it probably didn't help that I had to squeeze it in between ten films noirs at the Brattle, and most any sort of crime is going to seem like a bit of a disappointment compared to that.

One thing that kind of made me laugh about it was that it had some of the most wire-intensive explosive devices you'll ever see in a movie, the sort that make me wonder how often bombs are actually built like that. All those things apparently meant to confuse the bomb squad seem like they would make the thing more likely to go off accidentally or not at all, rather than on actual cue. It's especially goofy in this case because there's an early scene where Sky bypasses all the nonsense.

Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 8 June 2019 in AMC Boston Common #6 (first-run, DCP)

Chasing The Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch (aka "Master of Ransom") has a number in its title but that's more about branding than anything else: Directors Wong Jing and Kwan Chi-yiu did a period crime story a couple years ago that did fairly well, so this otherwise unconnected movie gets "Chasing the Dragon" in its name. Sadly, it isn't nearly so good as its predecessor in any particular area, and all that adds up to a crime film disposable enough that it's barely even worth the effort to look up whether it, too, was based upon actual cops and robbers.

This time, the year is 1996, and law enforcement has grown lax as the British prepare to hand Hong Kong back to China. This has created an environment where Logan "Big Spender" Long (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) can thrive, committing headline-grabbing abductions and ransoming the victims for millions of Hong Kong dollars. He tends to keep his captives in line with explosives, and unfortunately, that member of the gang has just blown himself up. This creates an opportunity for Inspector Li Qiang (Simon Yam Tat-Wah) to send an old colleague undercover; Sky He (Louis Koo Tin-Lok) has experience in both the bomb squad and undercover work. They identify Logan's kid brother Farrell (Sherman Ye Xiangming) as the best person to target, not realizing that one member of the gang, "Doc" (Gordon Lam Ka Tung) has encountered Sky before - but opts to keep quiet for reasons of his own.

For all that this movie is loud and kind of enjoyably convoluted, there's not really a whole lot of good, interesting crime going on. There are six or seven people on this crew but they're not treated as specialists who will each have a role to play in the big caper, but just bodies to keep the odds stacked against Sky. The actual kidnapping passes in a blur, and one of the more potentially interesting bits of tradecraft does not amount to much - so much of what both Sky and Logan need to do is handled off-screen, defusing any suspense that there might have briefly been. The film only generates tension once the ransom is being delivered and Sky is trying to silently do two or three different things so as not to tip his hand.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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