Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Better Tomorrow 2

A Better Tomorrow 2 Directed By John Woo. Starring Chow Yun-Fat (1987).
      I realize it’s a little strange for me to review the sequel before the original and my first John Woo pick is this one, but hear me out, there’s a valid reason why! It all has to do with my painstakingly accurate representation of that Deep Red catalog and in Deep Red Alert # 1 from 1991 this was the first of many bootlegs obtained through subterranen channels. In Deep Red Alert (the very first issue I ever bought in High School) Chas Balun mentions that he was handed a copy by Robert Kurtzman, Make-up man for KNB and after leaving it on a pile of extreme horror tapes (to be viewed later), he was later inspired to sell bootlegs. So I felt that it was an important film to include, plus I can only get mellow after dwelling in the cold blue nauseating underworld of corpse sex and sycophantic Nazi antics and take a breather. So here goes!  
      Mr. Lung, Ho's former mentor is at his daughter's wedding, with Disney-esque waltzes and crystal chandeliers. Billie (or Kit) weasels his way into the Lung family and even attaches a bug to a model ship in order to hear his secret deals with shady business men. Meanwhile Ho makes a deal to intercept Lung and gets a free ticket out of jail.
      Ho & Kit are old friends and partners, all of these men seem to genuinely care for each other and their relationships are handled in a platonic way (always with gentle music playing in the background). This may be the inspiration for Ray Wise’s business hugs on Tim & Eric, but probably not.
      Mr. Wong gets plugged with a silencer by an assassin in shades, hiding in the sidelines; he deceives Lung (who is holding a snubnose) into thinking he committed the murder. Lung escapes on a Singapore cargo ship to NY. After Peggy is gunned down, Ho travels to NY to recruit his old partner's (who was killed in the 1st film) twin brother, played by Chow Yun-Fat.
      Some low class mafia jerks are complaining about the inferior fried rice, while punks carve their initials into the tables of his restaurant. They emulate Mark the character from the first film.
What tiny parents you must have.

      There's a brilliant poignant scene involving fried rice and race relations between Italians and Chinese, this is some classic John Woo right here!
Ko, Mr. Lung's rat bastard of a traitor friend, tells the Mafia of his whereabouts and it’s only a matter of time before he's a dead duck.
Assisted living gangster
       After Lung's best friend is murdered, he ends up in a mental hospital where they force feed him oatmeal, punch his vital organs and treat him like an animal! He's more catatonic and detached then ever!
       Thankfully Chow takes him under his care and helps out his poor uncle. He means a lot to Chow and there's a great scene, where an entire fridge is splattered around his living room in an attempt to get him to eat again! Chow's Chinese Restaurant is blown to smithereens by the mafia, but they later get shot up in a car fire. The digitally remastered gunshots are extremely loud and sound great!
       Kit stupidly finds himself in a desert late at night among twenty gangsters who proceed to hurl him full force against a bunch of cars, then shoot him.
       The scenes with Ken (Chow) and his uncle blasting away with heavy artillery, dodging death sparks and sliding down the stairs backwards while shooting is so much more entertaining then the other half of the film's storyline involving Ko & Ho (I read that there are a lot of arguing as to which storyline was more relevant between Tsui Hark and John Woo).
         Lung visits Peggy’s grave and everyone keeps mentioning how Ken looks like his dead brother Mark (from the 1st movie). They all plan to fuck up Ko and his crew, who are hiding blood money in paint cans (Los Pollo’s Hermanos style).  
        John Woo is sometimes like a HK Scorsese, using masterful cinematography and hyper violence! It's trigger happy action flick that never strays from that formula, which is fine, but don't expect anyone to bite into a genital sandwich (A classic Jing Wong style gag)! There's a reason John Woo never delves into that level of immaturity, he knows what mainstream audiences like and don't like and is a major influence on Tarantino's early thefts (like City On Fire for Reservoir Dogs, there's a clip of this in True Romance).
       There's a sting of melodrama among the hail of bullets and the last 15 minutes are a barrage of nonstop carnage. Ken casually with a nonchalant manor fires through walls and the bodies quickly pile up. In one grenade scene, Chow almost gets seriously hurt (in real life), you could tell he miscalculated. There's even a surprise axe and samurai sword battle as Ken and the sunglasses wearing assassin shoot chunks out of each other at point blank range.
You dare laugh at my artwork?
       The three films A Better Tomorrow 2 takes its soundtrack from are from 52 Pick-up (Gary Chang), Birdy (Peter Gabriel) and (Jerry Goldsmith) Extreme Prejudice and the rest from Leslie Cheung.
       Gore fans will not be satisfied, but Hong Kong action fans should be entertained and know what to expect from these hyper violent/ dramatic gun battle ganger flicks. There are a lot of these in the Deep Red Catalog and more Hong Kong action flicks to be reviewed later, stay tuned…

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