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Given that the original Korean romantic comedy “My Sassy Girl” was such a phenomenal and influential hit back in 2001, the idea of a sequel probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. However, “My Sassy Girl 2” has come a little from leftfield, arriving nearly a decade later and shifting the action from Korea to China, with a Hong Kong director in Joe Ma (“The Lion Roars”) and an all new cast headed by Lynn Xiong (“Ip Man”), Singaporean idol Leon Jay Williams (recently in the Stephen Chow produced “Jump”), Mainland TV show host He Jiong, gorgeous Taiwanese actress Abby Fung, and popular Hong Kong TVB actor Bosco Wong (“I Love Hong Kong”). Although the film has no real links to its predecessor, it does see the return of writers Choi Seok Min and Kim Ho Sik, who ensure that it sticks to similar themes and delivers the same brand of aggressive, comic courting.
The film kicks off with poor sap Jianyu (Leon Jay Williams) making a suitably useless suicide attempt after being dumped by his girlfriend on the same day he planned to propose. He is saved from himself by a beautiful young woman called Shangzhen (Lynn Xiong), who ropes him into a scheme to try and ruin the relationship and wedding of her philandering ex-boyfriend Yang Guo (Bosco Wong). Jianyu agrees, and even moves in with her under the pretext of being her maid, though soon finds out that she has a sadistic, violent streak a mile wide. Also helping with the scheme is Shangzhen’s sister Yongzhen (Abby Fung), who does at least channel her aggression through working as a taekwondo teacher. Having been hurt in love before, she nevertheless finds herself falling for the rather effeminate lingerie designer Zhikai (He Jiong), who has been coming to her classes to try and make himself more of a man.
Despite the presence of script writers Choi Seok Min and Kim Ho Sik, it doesn’t take long to get the impression that “My Sassy Girl 2” has much more in common with Hong Kong styled wacky romantic comedies than it does with the original. On the plus side, this means that there is far less of a focus on angsty melodrama than in most Korean genre outings, with the film aiming mainly for laughs and never quite falling prey to the usual final act dive into tears and staring into the rain. The film does successfully adapt the still incredibly popular “Sassy Girl” formula for the Chinese market and culture, giving it a different to many other recent local efforts. Similarly, the film wins a few extra points of interest due to its pan-Asian air, with some good use of its various international locations.
Strangely, neither the script nor Joe Ma as director seem particularly bothered with the romance and relationships, which to a large extent play second fiddle to the daft set pieces and oddball characters. Indeed, the film is markedly preoccupied with seeing the two female stars beating up and tormenting their ludicrously weak willed male counterparts, spending almost the entire running time being genuinely horrible to them. Certainly, Shangzhen and Yongzhen are the protagonists here, with Jianyu and Zhikai being little more than thinly sketched nice guy punching bags. Though this means that anyone looking for heartfelt passion or even a hint of believability may feel a little short changed, the film is actually very funny, and has plenty of amusingly mean slapstick and senseless, though nicely constructed set pieces.
It also helps that the four stars really give their all, with Abby Fung emerging as the most likeable and charismatic, if only due to her playing the slightly less angry and psychotic of the siblings. Both she and Lynn Xiong do successfully manage to add a vague sense of depth and layer of hidden pain to their feisty heroines, and though this doesn’t exactly justify their behaviour it does make them sympathetic. The best that can be said about Leon Jay Williams and He Jiong is that they clearly left their dignity at the door, and do a good job of being the butt of almost all the film’s jokes, with game performances that at least make their unfortunate buffoons amiable figures of fun, which certainly seems to be the intention of the script.
An agreeable cast is obviously a must-have for a film like this, and the female stars really do help lift “My Sassy Girl 2” up a few notches. Although the necessity of its existence may be debatable, it’s a better film than expected, and offers up an hour and a half of surprisingly effective comedy, a few touches of romance, and lots of scenes of aggressive women kicking the hell out of considerably less masculine men.
Joe Ma (director) / Choi Seok Min, Kim Ho Sik (screenplay)
CAST: Leon Jay Williams … Jianyu
Lynn Xiong … Shangzhen
Abby Fung … Yongzhen
He Jiong … Zhikai