If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This familiar phrase applies well to the first Polis Evo, an otherwise formulaic action comedy that successfully blends action, humour and a terrific pairing of Zizan Razak and Shaheizy Sam as two mismatched police partners. Released back in 2015, the formula worked so well that it even once became the highest-grossing local movie ever made, earning a then-whopping RM17.8 million in the Malaysian box office.
Now, the filmmakers behind the highly-anticipated Polis Evo 2 could have just stick to the same formula, crank up the action and call it a day. But directors Joel Soh and Andre Chiew, replacing original helmer Ghaz Abu Bakar, have different ideas for their sequel. Gone are the same action-comedy formula that preceded the first movie. Sure, you still get some lighthearted moments of comic relief here and there from none others than Zizan Razak himself. But those moments are actually few and far between, which might disappoint fans of the first movie looking more of the same. Still, does that mean they made a mistake veering off the course in this sequel? I would normally think so if a movie franchise radically shifted their tone and change direction.
And yet, in the case of Polis Evo 2, Joel Soh and Andre Chiew’s tonal shift surprisingly works after all. It is considerably more serious and thought-provoking than the first time around, even going as far as cranking up the violence while depicting the harsh reality of working in the police force.
The story itself is actually nothing new and even straightforward enough, which basically revolved around Inspector Sani (Zizan Razak) and his partner Khai (Shaheizy Sam)’s mission infiltrating an extremist organisation led by Hafsyam (Hasnul Rahmat), who held hundreds of villagers hostage on a remote island.
Even with all the standard-issue storyline that many of us would have seen it countless times in Hollywood action movies, Polis Evo 2 still manages to overcome its familiarity by turning the sequel as gritty and action-packed as possible. Clocking at over two hours long, the pace rarely flags right from the opening scene itself. Kudos also go to Soh and Chiew for being daring enough to make the sequel relentlessly pessimistic — the kind of tone that instantly reminded me of a gritty, no-nonsense HK action movie of the 80s once populated by Ringo Lam of City on Fire and Prison on Fire fame. That means there are little-to-zero sugarcoating moments in this sequel, with Zizan Razak’s otherwise comic-relief character even forced to deal with his own inner demon during an emotionally-provocative scene (although I have to admit it takes a little while to get used to the fact he actually able to pull off a serious role beyond his usual comedic persona).
The recurring cast members are top-notch, with Razak and Shaheizy Sam each deliver their respective engaging performances. With Nora Danish nowhere in sight in this sequel, Raline Shah proves to be a worthy replacement, giving a solid support as the Indonesian undercover cop Rian. Hasnul Rahmat brings a perfectly no-nonsense gravitas to his frighteningly intimidating antagonist role as Hafsyam, who would not hesitate to get his hands dirty.
Action sequences are both violent and intense enough to justify the grim tone of this sequel, even though the elaborate gunfights — particularly during the climactic finale — tend to get repetitive and overstays its welcome. Another glaring setback in the action department is the use of a jittery cam that makes some of the gun battles and fistfights difficult to appreciate its overall choreography during the nighttime or low-light setting.
Despite some of the shortcomings, Polis Evo 2 is notably an improvement over the first movie and among the most thrilling local action movies I’ve ever come across in years.