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Black and White: The Dawn of Justice (aka Pi Zi Ying Xiong 2)
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by Jay Seaver

"Taiwan does not mess around with its buddy cop movies."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: It feels like it's been a while since I've seen an action movie as dedicated to being thoroughly nuts as "Black & White: Dawn of Justice", a sequel that, from what I gather, goes all-out in topping its predecessor by staging one big action scene on top of another, making the stakes as high as possible, and adding a couple extra dashes of personal melodrama into the final act just to make absolutely damn sure that the audience is invested. Even without seeing the first "Black & White", action/adventure fans should have a blast.

Wu Ying-hsiung (Mark Chao) became famous for rescuing the hostages on an airplane last time around, although he's the sort of movie cop that creates a lot of paperwork for his superior officers, even when he's not trying, like this morning, when his commute brings him right through a group of highly-trained soldiers of fortune attacking a military convoy. Also arriving at the scene is Chen Zhen (Kenny Lin Genxin), and up-and-coming detective from the Eastern Substation, and they've just begun to team up when, at 10am, a number of bombs attached to wanted criminals explode, sealing off all the bridges and tunnels. Though Ying is still in contact with the people from his division - forensics expert Lan Xi-ying (Janine Chang Chung-ning), uniformed officer Green, and ironically-named computer expert Hulk. They soon discover that one of the suicide bombers is Xu Da-fu (Huang Bo), whom Ying allowed to escape for his help before, and when a lead brings them to a military facility that the elite "Blackhawks" unit is raiding... Well, this is going to be a busy day for Ying, Chen, and Da-fu, and one the entire city will remember if the mastermind behind it has his way.

What are his plans for the city? Well, a little of everything; as Ying and Chen are put through their paces, suicide bombers and hostage situations are only the start of it; despite being the sequel to a hit movie (itself a follow-up to a popular television series), writer/director Tsai Yue-xun throws everything but the kitchen sink in like he'll never get to make another action movie, let alone entry in this series, and apparently casts himself as the villainous mastermind to boot. Just when it seems like Tsai has peaked, he escalates, eventually showing a sort of gleeful disinterest in making an action extravaganza where the mayhem is contained so as not to affect civilians. It's not hard to believe that he might be the guy who pushes a buddy cop movie all the way to something apocalyptic. It's bonkers, but it's a lot of fun.

The action is over the top, but well-executed - it's actually kind of rare to see both big chaotic set-pieces and quality hand-to-hand done this well in the same movie. The stunt/action team headed by Ron Yuan stages a few pretty good fight scenes - in addition to the henchmen being colorful, they seem quite capable. Of course, given that there is going to be action on land, sea, and air ("what, it's helicopters again?" says Ying early on), the action and effects team have to switch between fistfights, gunplay, and stuff that causes big explosions - the government will do quite a bit to keep "Project Hay" from getting out - and every bombastic bit is handled well.

The cast is a nice group, too, with Mark Chao and Kenny Lin playing cops that come off as entertainingly competitive, and in some ways almost self-aware of their presence in a buddy-cop movie: Chao's Ying is assured and kind of embarrassed by his fame but not above taking advantage of it, while Lin's Chen seems like he's angling for that sort of situation, mildly envious of Ying but really only to the point of creating good banter. Janine Chang gets the biggest part among those back at headquarters, and although it's kind of artificially boosted later on, she still makes for a fun part of the ensemble. Huang Bo, one of China's most popular comic actors, isn't around at first but livens up the movie when he is. At first, he seems to be to this movie what Joe Pesci was to Lethal Weapon 4 (the fun character played by a much-liked actor who is brought back despite the story not needing him), but he winds up pretty well-used.

Funny thing - I have not seen the first one, but I got strangely worried about this sequel nullifying what its predecessor did toward the end, which is either a sign that the folks making the movie are doing well or I'm a wee bit too concerned with structure. I'm glad I made the choice to see this one and had a chance to see it on the big screen, though - it's meant to be larger than life and delivers, a buddy cop movie that just keeps building well after that sort of thing usually pulls back.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=28189&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/15/15 14:22:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Hawaii International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Hawaii International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Yueh-Hsun Tsai

Written by
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Cast
  Kenny Lin
  Chieh-kai Shiou
  Terri Kwan
  Coulee Nazha
  Chun-Ning Chang
  Mark Chao



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