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Shock Wave 2
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by Jay Seaver

"Starts with the biggest bang it can and then just keeps rolling."
4 stars

"Shock Wave 2" doesn't really need to raise the stakes from its predecessor, given that it's not a sequel so much as Herman Yau directing Andy Lau in another bomb-squad movie since folks seemed to like the first one, but Yau is not exactly known for subtlety and pushes things about as far as he can go in the first scene. He backs off - honestly, he has to - but there's still enough explosion-packed loopiness to make up for how the filmmakers don't quite have as much enthusiasm for the bits that aren't quite so connected to things blowing up.

Five years ago, Poon Shing-Fung (Andy Lau Tak-Wah) and Tung Cheuk-Man (Sean Lau Ching-Wan) were partners in the HKPD's Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit - Man more cautious, Fung a bit more of a cowboy - until a particularly gnarly incident leaves Fung injured in a way that precludes going out in the field again, no matter how impressive his rehab is. Now, he's no longer on the force - indeed, he appears to be helping terrorist group Vendetta and it's leader "Maverick" Ma Sai-Kwan (Tse Kwan-Ho) construct and plant bombs, with the latest attack landing him back in the hospital, this time with a concussion and retrograde amnesia. Vendetta busts him out, but an encounter with former girlfriend Pong Ling (Ni Ni), an officer in the Counter Terrorism Response Unit, suggests things aren't as they seem. But if he's not Maverick's partner "Davy", then who is?

There's a certain tension in bomb-squad movies, between the need to show the heroes as capable and how the spectacle comes from them failing spectacularly, or at least there usually is. Herman Yau Lai-To is here to blow things up, so he and co-writers Erica Li Man & Eric Lee Sing are going to arrange things so that he can fit as many explosions in as possible, and not small ones. Not that he stops at bombs; he and action choreographer Nicky Li Chung-Chi give Andy Lau a few really fun sequences in the middle of the movie that are kind of laughable when one considers how Fung is supposed to be handicapped, but they're staged and cut so well that a viewer kind of rolls with the improbability of it.

Which is good practice for the plot, where the movie drops the expected twist on the audience pretty quick but soon takes it in a new direction before serving up another set of flashbacks may muddy things further even if it is also transparently setting up how the next bomb is going to be set up and defused. It is, in many ways, nonsense, but kind of clever in the way that everything about that can be as much feature as bug, from the exceptionally convenient way Fung has certain memories triggered to how thoroughly improbable even the simplest solution can be. It's such a mess that Fung literally can't figure out what's true or not, and has to figure out who he wants to be. In hindsight, it probably sticks to its own rules a lot better than many twisty thrillers primarily concerned with action do, but it's built so that it doesn't have to do so.

It would nevertheless be better if the cast was more connected to their characters; Fung and Man feel like they're supposed to be closer than they ever appear to be, and for someone billed as a co-star, Lau Ching-Wan doesn't have a whole lot to do, a seemingly inevitable result of keeping what's really going on ambiguous for so long - the by-the-book Man can't be a mirror of Fung if Fung is a bit of a mystery. Ni Ni plays off Andy Lau fairly well, at least, even if it sometimes doesn't seem clear how intense Fung and Ling's relationship was at the start (some iffy subtitles on the Hong Kong disc and a couple scenes where she seems more noticeably dubbed into Cantonese don't help). Tse Kwan-Ho is at least admirably committed as Maverick, and Philip Keung Hiu-Man is reliably intense as the cop in charge of chasing Fung down. Andy Lau himself is an odd case - even beyond how Fung is an amnesiac, he's often tough to get a handle on, maybe playing the cocky police officer who doesn't take sidelining well just a touch more unsympathetic than is ideal, but Lau nevertheless manages some nicely intense moments.

They all manage to dial it up for an entertaining finale which one might think would be hamstrung by the fact that the opening flash-forward ends with a narrator saying "fortunately, this doesn't actually happen", but somehow it isn't. There's still a lot that could go wrong short of that worst-case scenario, after all, and given that Yau has reached the point where everyone is fairly casually spraying bullets all over the place, it seems pretty clear that he's going to push it. There's a jump in scale that a lot of movies like this don't quite manage - with some aspects quite literally moving at the speed of a runaway train, he's got to use infographics to show everything going on while still getting up close and personal. The actual details are ludicrous whether one stops to think about it or not, but at this point Yau pretty clearly figures that one is either into it or they've walked out/ejected the disc/stopped the stream.

That firm commitment to being over-the-top makes it, at the very least, a lot more consistently fun than the first "Shock Wave". That messiness works against it whenever the movie has to slow down, but with as busy as Yau keeps the pyro and CGI crews, that's not nearly the problem it could have been.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=34474&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/03/21 15:11:07
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USA
  24-Dec-2020

UK
  N/A (15)

Australia
  24-Dec-2020 (MA)


Directed by
  Herman Yau

Written by
  Herman Yau
  Erica Li
  Eric Lee

Cast
  Andy Lau
  Ching-Wan Lau
  Ni Ni
  Kwan-Ho Tse
  Philip Keung



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