Review: COLD WAR 2 寒戰 2 (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Friday, 8 July 2016

Review: COLD WAR 2 寒戰 2 (2016)

Review: COLD WAR 2 寒戰 2 (2016)

Following the events of COLD WAR (2012), the sequel continues with the newly-promoted police commissioner Sean Lau (Aaron Kwok) being threatened by a masked kidnapper to get Joe Lee (Eddie Peng) out of prison in exchange for his wife's safety. After Sean chooses to break the protocol that subsequently goes awry, his questionable leadership quickly brought into attention by the Legislative Council which also includes the independent legislator, Oswald Kan (Chow Yun-Fat). Meanwhile, former deputy commissioner M.B. Lee (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) finds himself back in the game when his son and several other accomplices including ex-cops and high-ranking officials are working together to bring down Lau from his current position.

REVIEW: The first COLD WAR was a game changer that heavily promoted as "the next INFERNAL AFFAIRS". Not only the movie lives up to its huge anticipation, but also went on becoming the top-grossing Hong Kong movie in 2012 with an astounding HK$42.8 million at the box office. If that's not enough, COLD WAR also swept nine statuettes at the Hong Kong Film Awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) and Best Screenplay. Both critical and financial success of this movie has no doubt catapulted then-rookie directors Longman Leung and Sunny Luk into overnight sensations.

Given the level of success achieved in COLD WAR, it was definitely a huge undertaking for Leung and Luk to repeat the same feat in the sequel. After all, it's not easy fulfilling a sequel that manages to equal or improve upon the predecessor. Fortunately, after four years since the first COLD WAR, the directing duo successfully created a sequel that is well worth the wait. And best of all, Leung and Luk's third directing efforts are significantly improved by leaps and bounds after their star-studded disappointment of HELIOS (2015). Sure, the sequel no longer has the same novelty factor that deals with the internal conflict within the high-ranking police officers seen in the first movie. But they manage to compensate that by expanding the first movie's storyline into a web of political intrigue with more twists and turns while raising the stake of the previous rivalry between Lau and M.B. On top of that, the sequel also placed considerable attention to the themes of top-level corruption and exploitation as well as power struggle that reflects on the Hong Kong's current political climate.

Whereas the complexity of the plot feels rushed and confusing in the first movie, Leung and Luk finally learn their lessons by slowing down the pace considerably to allow ample time for their labyrinthine storyline to unfold from one event after another. While it's still necessary for viewers to pay close attention to the plot throughout the movie, the sequel's overall narrative structure is significantly polished this time around.

COLD WAR 2 is also benefited from a first-rate production value, which includes Jason Kwan's dazzling aerial shots of the Hong Kong's cityscape as well as other excellent camera movements, especially during the action scenes. Speaking of action scenes, Chin Ka-Lok's stunt choreography is top notch, with a showstopping moment set in the tunnel that begins with multiple vehicular crashes and followed by a tense shootout between Lau and the heavily-armed assailants.

Likewise in the first movie, the sequel continues to impress with an all-star cast. This time, it's nice to see three of among Hong Kong's finest veteran actors -- Aaron Kwok, Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Chow Yun-Fat -- acting in the same movie together. Fresh from his award-winning role in PORT OF CALL (2015), Aaron Kwok delivers a solid performance as Sean Lau. But as seen in the first movie, the scene stealer again goes to Tony Leung Ka-Fai as M.B. Lee, who previously won the coveted Best Actor award for portraying the role. As for Chow Yun-Fat, it's a huge relief to see him back in the dramatic role after spending his recent years playing comedies in Wong Jing's FROM VEGAS TO MACAU series. Other cast members, which include a roster of familiar faces from current and former TVB actors, lend strong supports to their respective roles.

Still, COLD WAR 2 is not without its fair share of flaws. It's a surprise that Aarif Rahman, who impresses the first time around as the young ICAC investigator Billy Cheung, is neglected into a thankless role in the sequel. Finally, Leung and Luk has again chosen to end the sequel with... another cliffhanger! Personally, it would have been better if they can wrap up the movie with a proper closure as opposed to another (unnecessary) open ending. Whether or not they manage to come up with a better idea in the third movie is remain to be seen. But as for now, COLD WAR 2 stands as one of the best Hong Kong movies ever made thus far and I won't be surprised if this sequel gets multiple nominations comes award season.

A strong blend of well-acted procedural drama and gritty cop thriller, COLD WAR 2 is top-notch if flawed sequel rarely seen in the Hong Kong cinema these days.

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