A Better Tomorrow II


Reviewed by: sukting

August 16, 2010

Rating: two

How long
1.5 hours

Foreword
A Better Tomorrow 2 is a sequel to A Better Tomorrow. Can it live up to the standards of Part 1 with the original cast and the addition of some veterans? I watched it in the cinema with some classmates.

Story/Introduction on characters

Sung Tse Ho (Ti Lung)is prisoned after what happens in A Better Tomorrow. He is puzzled when his younger brother, Tse Kit (Cheung Kok Wing) doesn’t visit him as frequent. His pregnant sister-in-law, Jackie (Chu Bo Yee) suspects him of seeing another woman while under a secret mission.

Tse Ho is then approached by Inspector Wu (Lau Siu Ming) to spy on his former master, Lung Sei (Shek Tin). Inspsector Wu thinks that he is in counterfeit notes business although he is now a legal shipyard owner. Tse Ho will not believe that he returns to his old ways and rejects the job.

Tse Kit pretends to woo Sei’s daughter, Peggy (Gan Wai Zan) under the name, Billie. He visits the shipyard with her and places a listening device behind a ship momument. He then pretends to be a shipyard worker there to learn that Mr Wong frequently visits Sei. (What a joke – how can he not blow his cover easily? Plus Sei knows Tse Ho well – how can he not know that Tse Kit is his brother?)

Tse Ho is dismayed to know that Tse Kit takes it up so he obligies. He wants to protect his brother although he is now an experienced pollice lieutenant. He lies to Sei that he escapes from prison so as to work with him. Sei tells him to surrender himself as he is no longer in the underworld.

Sei’s shipyard is not doing well and his partner, Ko Ying Pui (Kwan San) foolishly sells his shares to an underworld boss, Mr Wong (Ng Mun Tat). Sei refuses to give in although he runs into financial difficulties. He is neglected at a ball when others learn that he is down and out. The two brothers meet there and Tse Ho is glad that he isn’t as reckless as in the past. They witness Ying Pui telling Sei that Mr Wong wants to meet him. The men meet in the study.
Suddenly, Sei is framed of killing Mr Wong. He is then on the run and gets Tse Ho’s help to escape to New York.

Although he is disappointed to know of Tse Kit’s real identity, he makes Peggy stay with him to get protection. Unknown to both, the killer is actually, Chong ( Man Yan Lung) who is Ying Pui’s bodyguard. Both are eager to take over Mr Wong’s business.

Sei stays with his priest friend, Sam (played by famous Chinese American director Wong Cheng Fong). Sam laments that he is unable to remove his tattoos after so many years. Mark’s twin brother, Ken (Chow Yun Fatt) works in a hotel as a chef. He teaches the younger chefs and conceals his past. He doesn’t want to end up like Mark.

Ken is amused when all keep on mistaking him as Mark. When gangsters come creating trouble at the restaurant, he has to fend them off. He becomes the hero of the younger chefs but he still keeps a low profile. The innocent Peggy goes to Ying Pui to ask for Sei’s whereabouts to get killed by Chong in his bungalow. Sei gets the sad news and turns mad.

Ying Pui hunts him down and Sam also gets killed. Ken manages to come on time and leads him to hide in the hotel with him. They are cornered by the gangsters. Ken is injured and shouts at Sei to wake up his senses. Doesn’t he want to seek revenge for Peggy? He then becomes clear-minded to kill the mobsters in style and rescues Ken. (The change is too fast so I can’t stomach it.)

They return to Hong Kong to contact the brothers. Tse Ho finally gets into the sydnicate but Ying Pui still doesn’t trust him as Sei’s ex-sidekick. He even gets Tse Ho to shoot Tse Kit to prove his loyalty to him. (How can this be so dramatic?) Tse Ho pretends to go away but after everyone leaves, he sends Tse Kit to hospital in tears later to save him on time.

Their taxi driver friend, Ken (Tsang Kong) is amused that Ken has the same name as him although his Chinese name is Kin. They discuss over the happenings. The funny part is they keep passing an orange to one another but in the end, no one eats it!

They finally learn that Ying Pui is responsible. Tse Kit is ambushed at Ying Pui’s bungalow during an operation and is fatally wounded. He struggles to make a call to Jackie in the public phone booth. Jackie gives birth to a daugther and requests him to name their child. Tse Kit is saved by Ken and manages, just before he dies, to name his child Ho Yin. In Mandarin, it means "the Spirit of Righteousness".

Tse Ho grieves over Tse Kit’s death but picks himself up calmly. He gets Sei and Ken to attack Ying Pui’s bungalow during a meeting with a counterfeiting client. We get to see lots of killing but also many cuts. (I later learn that the three kill approximately 90 others, including one man shot by Chow Yun Fat approximately 40 times).

Sei gets his sweet revenge by shooting Ying Pui dead on the head while Ken kills Chong. All three are terribly wounded and sit down in the garden. They are surrounded by the police led by Inspector Wu. They do not struggle and surrender themselves as they have obtained their revenge.

Most favourite character
Ken, he doesn’t give up taking care of Sei when he is mad. A close second is Tse Kit who has turned so much for the better. Part 1 has him so unreasonable towards his elder brother.

Most hated character
Ying Pui – he is like a mouse in front of Sei. Who will expect him to be so ruthless and ambitious?

Song
The themesong is ‘Will Rush Toward Future Day’ (奔向未來的日子). The lyrics are written by Mr Wong Jim and composed by Mr Koo Kar Fai. Both are well known for penning nice songs so there is no exception for this one. It is sung by Cheung Kok Wing. It is as well as 當年情 – the themesong for Part 1.

Interesting facts

Gan Wai Zan died of a brain tumour at the age of 31. Kok Wing also committed suicide before the age of 50. The others feel sorrowful for them as their lives ended so abruptly as they were the youngest among them then.

Kok Wing was not satisfied with the way he acted originally in the film scene of Tse Kit’s death. He thought half a page of the script was too short and he could not present Tse Kit’s feelings that well. So was Chow who agreed with him. Under request, he increased the length to 3 pages and demonstrated to Kok Wing. Kok Wing was very impressed with this best actor award winner’s acting skills.

A Better Tomorrow 2 is notorious for its exaggerated violence, disturbed blood scenes and many deaths. Although many grumble that the movie is loose in the plot to be like a soap opera with Chow Yun Fatt going off limits over a bowl of rice to force a mobster to eat it as not to waste food. It is considered as a gangster movie classic, with many fans declaring it as good as the first A Better Tomorrow film.

Director Woo Yu Sum and producer Tsui Hark had disagreements over the plot. Tsui felt that it should focus more on Sei – which I don’t understand as it should be on the brothers or Ken. This led to the film being edited in halves by both Tsui and Woo. Woo only claims crediit for the final gun battle and doesn’t want to get related to other scenes.

This film was also notorious for stunt mishaps. Chow Yun-Fat was almost blown up when the explosion outside the mansion door was more powerful than expected. Some of his hair was burned and he was thrusted forward. The shot in the film is his real reaction. Others suffer from injuries when being the doubles for the cast.

The part where a group of teenagers come into Ken's restaurant dressed like triad bosses. When Ken asks why they wear like this at night, they answer that they are dressing like Brother Mark. This is true indeed – A better tomorrow was so popular that young people want to be "Mark Gor".

A Better Tomorrow 2 originally ran about 160 minutes. Tsui Hark insisted that the film should be shortened to a commercial length of 120 minutes. Woo refused to make any cuts, so Hark secretly cut parts out while Woo secretly put the things Hark had cut out back in. (I never know that their working relationship can turn to be that bad till they did not discuss with one another over this.)

The two had a falling out and couldn't agree what should be cut and what should not. So they had the film recut by the "Cinema City Editing Unit", which meant that they sent each reel of the film to one of Cinema City's editors, who would then go to work on his particular reel. There was no supervision by the two. Each of them just cut things out as they deemed fit to come up with is now the official version.

Conclusion

The two should have discussed on how to improve the plot instead of arguing with each other. This film, despite the starlit cast, was a disaster. This is doing them a lot of injustice. Cut or without cuts, the poor standard stays as many become disillusioned on how a sequel should be at par with the original.

There is no direction and plenty of loopholes. When I watched it with my classmates, all my female classmates were fascinated by Kok Wing’s looks or charm while my male classmates and I were mortified by its watery plot and unacceptable gun scenes. We are not convinced by the story at all. If they are not ready, they shouldn’t have shot it.

Getting Sei to be the focus is totally wrong. Who is interested to watch an old man who keeps grieving for his dead daughter till he turns oblivious to whatever happens around him? He is totally shaken when Sam is dead and still lets him down when he dies for him. If not for Ken, both might have been buried together.
The middle is so boring and I yearn to see more on Tse Ho on how he finds evidence in Hong Kong but they doesn’t show it! What is the point of making him a mole then?

Ying Pui’s change is questionable. It isn’t stated clearly why and how he change sides. He seems to be under control of others for a long time and suddenly he rises to power for no reason. There is no surprise that he is the mastermind as all have predicted correctly due to the lack of people. How can this be? If he is so capable to have Chong, why can’t Sei too? He doesn’t seem to be a powerful man fit for big roles. Ng is good but unfortunately, he is gotten rid off too early.

The actresses are only present to balance the brotherhood or the guys will seem too lonely. However, they are totally forgotten easily after Tse Kit’s death. Getting Peggy to know Billie is too brief – how can Sei not check on his future son-in-law to know who he is? It is splashed all over the newspapers that he arrests his own brother in A Better Tomorrow.

I also laugh at Tse Kit’s stupidity in planting the listening device. How can he put it in such an obvious spot? It will be safer to put it under the table or elsewhere. And when he is playing cards with the rest, he lies to others that he is listening to music from a walkman when disguising to be a worker. What can he do if a curious chap asks to listen to it?!

The directors must have regretted to have Mark killed in Part 1. Thus they conveniently bring in Ken, his twin brother for Part 2. I see no difference in Chow playing the two roles as both men are equally cheeky and talkative. Wearing the same windbreaker and trademark shades to examine Mark’s photo - no wonder the others can’t tell too.

Getting Tse Kit to die is another dreadful mistake! How to spur viewers to continue watching if there isn’t a handsome and young face? And must he die without seeing his newborn daughter for the last time? The producer is simply too cruel to try to squeeze tears from female fans but too bad I shed none.

There is no exposure for acting for all. They only turn up briefly to talk about old times or to let us remember their previous roles. Inspector Wu should have helped Tse Ho in the undercover process but he does nothing except to arrest him to claim credit in the end.

My verdict is – don’t watch this movie. You will feel terrible after watching. It is a total waste of time to watch it. My heart still aches till this very day upon thinking how I was duped to spend money to watch it in the cinema. The song is the only saving grace of the whole film. You must get Kok Wing’s ‘Final collection’ or ‘Virgin Snow’ albums that have this song upon seeing it. I still keep the ‘virgin snow’ cassette as it is not found anywhere now.

Sukting’s ratings :

On acting : **1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : ** (Scale of 5)

On songs : **** (Scale of 5)



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