Ascant one year after the tremendous success of its original, A Better Tomorrow, theaters around the world were treated to A Better Tomorrow II. Although I think a better title might have been, It’s Still a Better Tomorrow (tongue firmly in cheek, of course). The movie is incredibly rough around the edges and many scenes don’t work, the acting is as unpredictable as the first, going from downright excellent to atrocious. But none of that matters, since John Woo is once again back at the helm, and the movie brings back the original’s real star, Chow Yun Fat, who had a supporting role in the original.
Fat is still in a supporting role here, but there’s no doubt who is the real star, especially since the movie’s highlights are ones with Fat in the middle of it. Ignore the terrible subtitles and the choppy editing, and the fact that this movie was obviously rushed into production to capitalize on the phenomenal success of its original, and you have a good action yarn to waste away a good part of your day.
The story is really inconsequential to a movie like this, but for those of you who likes to know what a movie is about, here it is: Reformed gangster Ho’s brother, Kit, is now a full-fledge detective, and the youngster gets into a lot of trouble, is shot during an investigation, and calls his brother with his dying breath. Ho recruits Ken, the twin brother of Mark (both characters are played by Chow Yun Fat), to join in the fight. Revenge is the name of the game.
As you’ll remember, Mark was killed at the end of the original, so in order to bring Fat back, Mark is discovered to miraculously have a twin brother living in New York. After a brief and amusing scene where Ken (how improbable a name is that? I still blame Mark/Ken’s name on bad subtitles, and believes those are not their actual movie names) fends off some Italian gangsters at his restaurant, Ken returns to Hong Kong to help Ho get revenge for Kit’s murder.
The rest of the movie involves the standard John Woo trademarks. The slow-motion action scenes; the two-fisted gun shootouts; and the final, bloody battle that has the heroes facing off against overwhelming odds and managing to come through. Regardless of guns, grenades, or scores of enemy, the heroes, armed with everything from guns to their own grenades to samurai swords, does tremendous damage, and Woo captures all the mayhem in splendid glory.
In fact, the only thing that kept this movie from being a truly outstanding John Woo movie is the choppy feel of the movie. As usual, Hong Kong filmstock is atrocious, and the film looks like a 16mm movie instead of a true cinematic feature. Regardless of cinematic quality, the movie is a blast to watch, and the ending alone makes up for all the flawed technical aspects.
John Woo (director) / John Woo, Tsui Hark (screenplay)
Cast: Dean Shek …. Si Lung
Lung Ti …. Ho
Leslie Cheung …. Kit
Yun-Fat Chow …. Ken/ Mark