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Chasing the Dragon 2: Wild Wild Bunch
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by Jay Seaver

"New decade, new crimes, less excitement."
3 stars

"Chasing The Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch" (aka "Master of Ransom") has a number in its title but that's more about branding than anything else: Directors Wong Jing and Kwan Chi-yiu did a period crime story a couple years ago that did fairly well, so this otherwise unconnected movie gets "Chasing the Dragon" in its name. Sadly, it isn't nearly so good as its predecessor in any particular area, and all that adds up to a crime film disposable enough that it's barely even worth the effort to look up whether it, too, was based upon actual cops and robbers.

This time, the year is 1996, and law enforcement has grown lax as the British prepare to hand Hong Kong back to China. This has created an environment where Logan "Big Spender" Long (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) can thrive, committing headline-grabbing abductions and ransoming the victims for millions of Hong Kong dollars. He tends to keep his captives in line with explosives, and unfortunately, that member of the gang has just blown himself up. This creates an opportunity for Inspector Li Qiang (Simon Yam Tat-Wah) to send an old colleague undercover; Sky He (Louis Koo Tin-Lok) has experience in both the bomb squad and undercover work. They identify Logan's kid brother Farrell (Sherman Ye Xiangming) as the best person to target, not realizing that one member of the gang, "Doc" (Gordon Lam Ka Tung) has encountered Sky before - but opts to keep quiet for reasons of his own.

For all that this movie is loud and kind of enjoyably convoluted, there's not really a whole lot of good, interesting crime going on. There are six or seven people on this crew but they're not treated as specialists who will each have a role to play in the big caper, but just bodies to keep the odds stacked against Sky. The actual kidnapping passes in a blur, and one of the more potentially interesting bits of tradecraft does not amount to much - so much of what both Sky and Logan need to do is handled off-screen, defusing any suspense that there might have briefly been. The film only generates tension once the ransom is being delivered and Sky is trying to silently do two or three different things so as not to tip his hand.

The blandness starts at the top; this is another Louis Koo cop movie where Koo seems like some sort of default-value detective, plugged in there because the story needs police involvement but never fleshed out. Koo is generally at his best in this sort of movie when he gets to at least have his character play at oily corruption, but given a nice-seeming bachelor who looks after his mother and a generic cover identity, he doesn't have many places he can go, and watching him and Simon Yam play off each other as long-time colleagues and friends is pleasant but doesn't go very far. The villains aren't that much more colorful; for being a "Wild Wild Bunch", they're pretty anonymous except for Tony Leung. Logan "Big Spender" Long may not be his most iconic role, but he's got some amusing aging-lothario energy to him, if nothing else. He thunders when the Long brothers come into conflict, and it's a whole lot more entertaining than what Sherman Ye is doing in those scenes.

There are signs that it all should be more interesting - an opening montage of Long's previous crimes has some entertainingly melodramatic moments that seem like they might come into play later, but don't; similarly, Long's target having multiple wives looks like it could make negotiations interesting but never does. Logan Long is based on an actual notorious criminal, Cheung Tze-keung, but the film is fictionalized enough that there's little need to worry about accuracy (the plot of the film seems to be the crime he was planning when apprehended), so there's not much need to be boxed in. While Wild Wild Bunch does not often play as rushed or sloppy, it comes across as something that the very prolific Wong Jing could make quickly while Chasing the Dragon was still fresh in memory, a very basic script punctuated by action that is big but not often elaborate: Explosions can be managed by a good pyro team, and the big shootouts are not complex choreography.

Wong and his collaborators are professional enough in the making of genre movies that "Chasing the Dragon II" seldom crosses the line separating "uninspired" and "boring", although it gets close, and Tony Leung Ka-fai sometimes seems to be the only one looking to steer away. If anyone else was really trying to give their characters some sort of broad cartoonish persona, it might tip this movie which has some enjoyable procedural bits and occasional fun with explosives in a more positive direction.

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originally posted: 06/11/19 13:56:23
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User Comments

6/18/19 kelly freeman this film was not as good as the original 3 stars
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Directed by
  Jason Kwan
  Jing Wong

Written by
  Koon-nam Lui
  Jing Wong

  Louis Koo
  Tony Ka Fai Leung
  Simon Yam
  On-On Yu
  Ka Tung Lam
  Jiang Du

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