|Plot Outline: After serving his time in prison, Ho is offered a chance to be free if he’ll go undercover and help bust his former mentor Si Lung (Dean Shek). Ho refuses until he finds out Kit is already on the case, he changes his mind so he can help protect his brother. Once out he is placed as an informant but almost immediately, Lung is framed for murder by his right hand man Ko. Lung flees Hong Kong and heads to America to stay with a friend, but the triads soon find where he is and try to assassinate him only killing his friend instead. Lung is traumatized and almost in a comatose state. He is sent a mental hospital, but thankfully Mark Gor, twin brother of Ken Gor from the original A Better Tomorrow, also happens to be in New York and takes him in. Mark must bring Lung back to reality, but things are going to be tough since the triads have sent hitmen to kill him. Back in Hong Kong Ho and Kit are both working undercover, but Ko may suspect them. In the end everyone is going to have to band together to defeat the common enemy: Ko.|
The Review: Before there was Hard Boiled, there was A Better Tomorrow II. I mean that in the fact that both films are examples of John Woo being given free reign to make as large of an action movie as he possibly could. The parallels between ABT2 and ABT1 kind of resembles the comparison of The Killer and Hard Boiled. The Killer and ABT1 are much more story driven films from John Woo’s library, and carry the patented John Woo melodrama that has made him so famous. Hard Boiled and ABT2 however are simply over the top action films to the core. With Hard Boiled however there’s really not as much blood as in his other films, one assumes because the action scenes are so huge. Could you imagine how much it would cost to load a squib on every person that dies in that movie? Well, ABT2 is kind of the opposite of that. The action scenes, while huge, aren’t quite as grandiose and are much more grounded and a whole lot bloodier as a result.
The climatic gun fight here rates in as the most violent gun fight Woo has ever made. People die left and right with exploding squibs literally painting the walls red. Woo actually almost reached the sleaziness of Ringo Lam’s Full Contact, but not too many films can top that one. The action in the film is, for lack of a more sophisticated sounding word, awesome! ABT2 isn’t all action though, it can get a bit drowned in the melodrama. The film is soulless you may think, and you may be right, but it’s so fun I could care less. According to John Woo: King of Gunfire the film was made so Woo could help out his friend Dean Shek, who also stars alongside Chow Yun-Fat and Ti Lung, because he was having financial trouble. Although I’m not familiar with Shek’s work he seems like the kind of guy who shouldn’t have trouble getting roles. He has an interesting look to him, well, when he’s not groveling at Chow Yun-Fat’s feet over his dead daughter that is.
In this film Ho and Kit’s story kind of takes backseat to Chow Yun-Fat’s character, which may or may not be a good thing depending on the person. Chow’s story is weak, but Chow’s performance is not. Chow plays it over the top per usual and seems more like comic relief this time around. You know, I think of ABT1 and I think of chow, battered and bruised yelling at Ti Lung about responsibility. Then I think of Chow in ABT2 and I think of him standing in front of a door with a silly look on his face as a gigantic explosion goes off behind him. Although the characters are twins, Chow certainly made them as different in character as could possibly be made.
As I’ve mentioned already, the action in this film trumps the original big time. There are more gun fights, and they’re just infinitely more cool this time around. Chow has the best shootout in my opinion. It may not be long, but the shootout in the hotel is one of my favorite action scenes of any film. Chow jumps on his back and rolls down a staircase while shooting two 45’s into some mafia guy, and he gets to fire off the biggest freaking shotgun I’ve ever seen. It looks more like it’s shooting grenades rather than shells. There are sparks everywhere! Which is ridiculous… but how can you even be bothered to question anything with all of the bonkers action going on around you?
The ending of the film has to be seen to be believed. Chow and the gang get in Reservoir Dogs style suits and just go nuts, destroying a home with more weaponry than the armed forces, and killing what has to be thirty thousand armed men. The whole scene is just insanely over the top, and is downright hilarious. Our heroes enter the front gate, with about thirty men sitting on the front lawn, and proceed to kill every single one without so much as getting a scrape. They do eventually each get shot mind you but only when it serves a dramatic purpose, like in all Woo films. A single bullet hole here and there is nowhere near enough to stop a REAL hero!