A Better Tomorrow II

The three main cast members (Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung, Chow Yun-Fat) from A Better Tomorrow are back. Kit(Leslie Cheung) is now working on a dangerous undercover mission. The authorities feel his currently incarcerated brother may be of use. Ho (Ti Lung) is offered the chance to get out of jail early if he agrees to help. At first he turns the offer down, but soon he realizes the best way to protect his brother is to take the offer. Useing his former status to infiltrate the syndicate himself. Meanwhile the twin brother of the now deceased Mark(Chow Yun-Fat) is living in New York running a Chinese restaurant and trying to avoid paying protection money to the local wise guys.

Once inside the gang Kit and Ho both make contact with former mob boss Si Lung(Dean Shek) who appears to be going straight but is finding it difficult. It's not long before things go bad and the brothers smuggle Si onto a ship to New York, where he conveniently meets Marks long lost twin Ken. After some hi-jinx across the pond including a pretty cool hallway/stairwell shoot out the two return to Hong Kong and reunite with the brothers. From there on in the film drops some of its cheesiness and heads towards one of the best shoot out scenes of all time.

After A better Tomorrow became a massive surprise hit for Director John Woo and Producer Tsui Hark it was inevitable a sequel would follow. However for it to work the fans really wanted to see the show stealing Chow Yun-Fat on the screen again. The problem how ever was his character Mark Lee was killed off at the end of the original. To bring him back a very lame twin brother plot was put together. Still lame or not Chow needed to be there, great as Ti Lung and Leslie Chung are, it was Chow's character that really stood out. Joining Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun-Fat is Dean Shek better known for comedic roles. Woo and Hark argued over the focus of the film, Hark wished to concentrate on Dean Sheks character, while Woo wanted Yun-Fat to be the focus. As a result of this and other issues between the two the film is patchy and does not have one consistent style. Some of the scenes in New York are pretty sub par, while others like the mentioned  shoot out are fun, though not up to the standard of the original.

The scenes shot in Hong Kong are better though the film still feels choppy. However as the film draws towards the end it settles down and has some great moments of both violence and a truly emotional scene. The films final shoot out takes things to another level, it's an action cinema piece de resistance.  In fact there's a good chance this is one of the top ten shoot outs of all time and makes A better Tomorrow 2 absolutely essential viewing. In fact this single scene is probably one of the most influential ever put on film as the black suits, handguns and swords come together and define what a bloody finale should be. Woo and Hark take the best from the past and combine it with their new heroic bloodshed genre to define brutal cool. Influencing the course of action and crime cinema once again and no doubt inspiring uber fan boy Quentin Tarantino and a legion of other filmmakers further. The shot of the hero's sat on a couch at the end is cinematic perfection. If only the whole film could have kept up to the standard of the finale this might have been the single greatest action film of all time. Sadly the whole film didn’t and it's not, but it's still essential viewing for genre fans.