Film & DVD Review
In the second kinetic outing in the series, Chan Ho Nam has become branch leader within the Hung Hing Society, and celebreates by launching his first club with his girlfriend Smartie. Into the ambivalent festivities of a flourishing triad society, Taiwanese figure-head Liu Kung arrives to form an uneasy alliance with the Hung Hing Society. In tow comes with him his mistress, Ting Siu Yiu, with whom Chicken has become "entangled" whilst on the run in Taiwan. A power struggle erupts that threatens to rip the fabric of the Hung Hing asunder, and if played properly, could leave Chan and his followers eliminated.
The Young and Dangerous series is a series of films that are quite well known among Hong Kong film fans. For some reason though, they are not really held in that high regard. This could be due to a lot of people not really thinking too much of Ekin Cheng's acting ability, other reasons elude me as I quite like the series so far (only watched parts 1-3 at time of writing). What is evident, however, love or hate the series, a lot of recognisable faces have passed in front of the Young and Dangerous cameras. The main new arrivals for this part are Chingmy Yau and Anthony Wong.
While the film pretty much continues from the end of part 1, even featuring a brief recap, it wisely chooses to fill in a few of the blanks that were left over from part 1 - mainly Chicken's experience in Taiwan. In an extended flashback, we see Chicken's arrival into the Taiwanese triads, his rise in the power structure there under the head boss Liu Kung and his meeting with Liu Kung's mistress Tin Siu Yiu (Chingmy Yau). Meanwhile in the present, with the death of Chan Ho Nam's (Ekin Cheng) old boss, Bee, there is an opening for someone to take charge of his areas. Only two candidates are considered, Chan Ho Nam and Tai Fai (Anthony Wong). Each is given half of the clubs owned by Bee and the one who does the best during this time will be given the position. With the expected dirty tricks going on between the two, things take an unexpected turn when Liu Kung pays the Hung Hing a visit.
Compared to part 1, part 2 offers more development of the characters that have survived through, primarily Chicken. The flashbacks of his time in Taiwan and the way he acts over there are an interesting insight into his character. Watching the film, and the way some of the characters are portrayed, it is sometimes a little easy to forget that they are really not nice people. They kill with no remorse, and are pretty much always up to some sort of dirty deal. Chicken is no exception. I also preferred the potential shown in this film's plot, however the way things are developed does at times seem a little contrived. Some things are just a little too convenient, while others aren't quite as believable from some points of view. I can't really go into specifics here, as that will spoil the ending sections of the film.
Anthony Wong and Chingmy Yau are the main new actors to appear in this film. Anthony Wong has been cast as Tai Fai, another triad boss. More often than not I think having Anthony Wong in a film is a good thing, as he is more than capable of giving stellar performances, see Infernal Affairs for one such example. However, in Young and Dangerous 2 I did not have this feeling. Maybe it is the way his character is written, but I found Tai Fai to be rather annoying and not that great a character. Maybe had someone else been in the role I would have thought even less of him, or maybe that is a credit to Anthony Wong's acting that he made me not particularly like the character. Whatever it is, while for the story Tai Fai is important, he is a character that I would personally rather see less of than others.
Chingmy Yau is the Japanese mistress of the head Taiwanese triad boss, Liu Kung, and I thought she excelled in her role, and was easily the best performer on screen. She was quiet, timid, subservient, authoritative, seductive, evil and manipulative when called for, and at all times completely believable. All the other principal characters played by Jordan Chan, Ekin Cheng and Gigi Leung were all pretty much as the first instalment. Jordan gave another good performance, Ekin was decent enough, but possibly a little bland on the emotional front, and Gigi Leung is still as cute as ever! Her acting was not bad too, if that matters as much!
While in films of this sort, there is always going to be a slight touch of the ridiculous, like Chan Ho Nam and the others he was with in the first film managing to escape from about 100 other triads out to kill them, despite being completely surrounded at one point, in general the films play mainly on realism. There is no flying in the air like in wuxia films; everything seems plausible. Why then did they have a scene where Chan Ho Nam and Chicken jump off the top of a building, which must have been about 4 stories high, land on top of separate car each, and then just jump off the car and run away as if it was just a step down they took. Surely they would have broken their legs or something like that?! Yes, I know it is a film and I shouldn't over analyse, but when everything else is more believable why ruin it with something like that?
The second instalment of the Young and Dangerous series is another solid entry in my books. The potential for the plot is definitely better here, and I do prefer the story that is told, but the execution of it could have been better. Ultimately I can't really recommend this one above part 1, but more along side it, as it is definitely worth viewing.
Audio & Subtitles
This DVD comes with a Cantonese Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack. On the whole the audio is fine, but the main complaint would be that the volume balance is a bit of in places. In one scene the speech would be perfectly audible, but in a following scene everything would be noticeably quieter. This had me adjusting the volume level on my TV a couple of times. Everything else seemed decent enough, with nothing blatantly distorted or out of place sounding.
The subtitles, like with the first Young and Dangerous film, are yellow in colour and are position just on and below the letterboxed print, again making zooming into the letterboxed section impossible for those with widescreen TVs that need the English subs. Grammar and spelling seemed flawless, but where the subs fail is in the lack of subtitles for writing that appears on screen. In one scene the viewer really needs to know what some writing says to fully understand the scene. There is also a scene where the characters are singing, and the song is not subtitled. This probably wasn't quite as necessary to understand the film, but it would still be preferable to have the song subtitled than not.
The picture quality for Young and Dangerous 2 was definitely better than that for the first part. The print looked a little sharper, and certainly didn't display as much motion blurring or compression artefacts that could be seen in the first film's release. Colours looked pretty well reproduced, making the many neon signs of Hong Kong stand out well. The main complaint with this film's print is that in some scenes there was a definite picture fade in and out. It was most noticeable in scenes where the camera was static, the colours could be seen to become very slightly darker then lighter in about one second or so time-scales. It was a little off putting at times. Other than that this is just a print that is very much like a lot of Hong Kong released DVDs' letterboxed prints.
DVD & Extras
Again Hong Kong Classics have labelled this release as a Special Widescreen Edition, and it is only ever so slightly more special than the first film's release. On this one there are two trailers! Yes, you read that right, a whole two trailers! Very special indeed. One is for this film, and the other is for part 1. Probably as a marketing thing to sex up the DVD a bit, the back cover features a picture of Chingmy Yau that is not from, or even related to, this film. But she looks quite nice in the picture, so maybe I shouldn't complain too much!
Part 2 of god knows how many, and going pretty well. There is definite room for improvement in the Young and Dangerous series, but as far as triad action films go, I honestly believe that this series is one that is worth checking out, with Young and Dangerous 2 putting in a solid effort.
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