Top positive review
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Just enjoy the ride.
on May 3, 2003
From the accounts I've read, A Better Tomorrow II was a reluctant endeavour on Woo's part to cash in on an extremely personal and extremely successful film (the first A Better Tomorrow) which had made his career and hadn't been intended as a franchise. But a franchise it became, and the corny, nearly nonsensical plotting of this sequel (the comic-book artist is especially ludicrous -- it's the same guy who had been the counterfeit engineer in the first film!) is the result.
But where this film good-naturedly flubs on logic, it makes up for in spectacle and just pure entertainment. Chow Yun-fat must have had a ball filming this, with his extended English monologue, almost godlike action choreography, and a mischievous character which taps into one of his most effective traits as an actor, a goofball sense of fun which makes his romantic moments all the more engrossing. Ti Lung's character is somewhat passive this time though the actor does a good job. Dean Shek's over-the-top portrayal of a mind unhinged isn't for all tastes, but his performance in the not-crazy scenes is tip-top, and Leslie Cheung had grown greatly as an actor since the first film.
In the end, this film is about an exaggerated staging of the trademark gunfights of A Better Tomorrow, and this sequel delivers on that front in grand style. Once again Chow Yun-fat steals the whole show, dominating both key action sequences (the final demolition of the house and the New York battle against over-the-top slimy mafiosi).
The DVD transfer of this film is not all that great. As with the first A Better Tomorrow DVD on Anchor Bay, the trailers are not that remarkable -- this DVD offers "Hong Kong" and "American" trailers, but the Hong Kong trailer has already been available on the pristine Criterion Collection edition of Hard Boiled, and the American trailer is pure trash. There is no commentary, not surprisingly, but the most bothersome thing is that the picture transfer is really not that great. Unbecoming scratches mar the picture, and I suspect it's on the master used by Anchor Bay, not a one-off on my DVD.
The film is still lots of fun to watch. Turn off your logic circuit and indulge.