Screener Review: COLD WAR 2 (2016)

Directors Longman Leung and Sunny Luk blew moviegoers away with their 2012 hit film, Cold War, a tale of events that would become the ultimate litmus test of the tumultous politics of the Hong Kong Police Department between two leading branches. Aaron Kwok and Tony Leung led the way and carried the film's superb tone with sheer gravitas and gusto in their performances, and a terrific script by Leung and Luk to keep the intrigue and explosive action going. That said, going into their latest, Cold War 2, save for a few minor plot holes and disparities, we get a film that measures similarly in capacity with ample delivery.

Kwok and Leung return in their respective roles immediately following the events in the first film with Kwok starring as the former head of management and now newly-appointed HKPD Commissioner, Sean Lau, and Leung in the role as former head of Operations, M.B. Waise Lee. The film propels you directly into the aftermath of the first film which sees Lau talking to a mysterious caller who signals a threat to Lau's family if he doesn't comply with his demands. As if things weren't bad enough, Lau is also forced to deal with the on-going case of the missing police van from the first film, as well as the corruption from within the hierarchy of his own department at the behest of those behind the curtain and pulling the strings. Soon enough, the action heats up on the streets of Hong Kong when a deadly incident further implicates Lau in front of a legal panel to determine if he abused his power to save his family. Alas, with much more than his job on the line and Lee mysteriously back in the picture with his own agenda, Lau must play a deadly game of chess with every move counting as its last, as the fate of both the Hong Kong police force and the city it has vowed to protect hang in the balance.

The film is as thrilling as one could hope for if you've seen and enjoyed the first one. The tone of the film is great and keeps things afloat from start to finish with terrific performances by its returning cast, including Eddie Peng as ex-cop Joe Lee, as well as returning cast members Charlie Yeung and Aarif Lee, and newly-added Chow Yun-Fat and Zhang Guozhu. Actress Janice Man makes her appearance alongside Chow in a well-acted role that further antees up the stakes in a very interesting way later on. The stunt sequences are mind-blowing with some of the sickest car gags and explosive feats you'll see, sans missing bodyparts and gore from the 2012 installment but amply just as violent and tumultous.

The Lau/Lee rivalry reignites as well midway through the film as the plot thickens, which mildly leaves you questioning why the ending for the first movie was written the way it was given the stakes we now see here. It feels a little inconsistent and forced to help make a second movie work in that regard, but it shouldn't be too much of a burden given the plot and overall intrigue that ensues. For this, while sustaining the jingoistic nature of its predecessor, you get a sequel that is riveting and compelling full of espionage, duplicity, increased odds and engaging spotlights on many themes that embolden the danger on many fronts, and furthermore with Leung as the film's biggest catalyst.

If I sounded at all vague about the first film in conjunction with the details of the plot here, just know that it's because I want you to see the first film in advance. It will surely give you a great handle on the narrative to help appreciate what its follow-up offers in its sprawling and chaotic tale. Leung and Luk bring forth an explosive crime saga that takes things to a whole new level that ultimately land the likes of Kwok and Leung in one of the best action franchises to come from Hong Kong, and equally in what I hope will continue into threequel territory. The production certainly aims high in its quality as well as its spectacle with an opening credits sequence that almost solidly takes its cues from a Terminator 2: Judgement Day sequence on crystal meth - it may seem like overkill, but it IS the it's time to sell 2016 blockbuster!

Cold War 2 opens in-sync on July 8 in Hong Kong from Edko Films, and in the U.S. from Well Go USA.


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