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Michael Tse returns yet again as Laughing Gor, the undercover cop character made popular in the TVB series “E.U.” and “Lives of Omission”, in a sequel to his first 2009 big screen outing “Turning Point”. With Herman Yau, still one of Hong Kong’s hardest working and most under-appreciated directors, back at the helm, the film also welcomes back stars Bosco Wong, Kate Tsui, and MC Jin, along with a host of new stars adding to the drama including Francis Ng, Chapman To and Kara Hui.
The film basically follows on from “Lives of Omission”, with Tse’s Laughing having been sent to prison for the murder of gangster Michael So (Bosco Wong) – actually a front for an undercover investigation into police corruption. Behind bars, Laughing focuses his efforts on trying to get information from an imprisoned and seemingly deranged police narcotics sergeant called Chit (Chapman To). Things become more complicated with the arrival in the jail of manipulative new inmate Fok Tin Yam (Francis Ng), a university psychology professor sent down for drug offences who Laughing soon suspects might be involved in the case.
Probably the main question with “Turning Point 2” is as to whether or not it’s only for fans of the series or if it stands alone as a film in its own right. Interestingly, the film not only manages to work well enough for newcomers, but arguably performs better for those unfamiliar with the television series and who don’t as a result carry its baggage with them. The main reason for this is the fact that as a piece of narrative cinema, “Turning Point 2” is rather convoluted, trying to pack in a huge amount of scheming and plotting into its short sub-90 minute running time, with various factions vying for power and pretty much the whole cast having hidden intentions or secret identities. Yau manages to navigate his way through this reasonably well, though the film is certainly more fun if viewed as a crime thriller instead of an over-extended excuse for continuing the tale of Laughing Gor.
This is furthered by Yau clearly being more interested in themes than in his characters, for the most part effectively using them as chess pieces or ciphers. It’s again here where newcomers are likely to have quite a different take on the film, as aside from a few flashbacks it makes few concessions to trying to drum up or reinforce any kind of emotional connection. This isn’t really a problem, with the film’s main raison d’être being its determined exploration of right and wrong, Yau using the setup to focus on politics, police corruption and the question of justice vs. the law. This is obviously pretty weighty stuff, and the film marries its philosophical concerns with its narrative, in particular in terms of the question as to the identity and nature of the overall villain, and in Fok’s decidedly odd relationship with Kate Tsui’s deluded Paris, the wife of the deceased Michael, who he is quite happy to have believe that he is her husband. Whilst things get a bit heavy handed and at times the film verges on lecturing, it does win points for attempting to add a little depth, and as a far reaching conspiracy and moral debate it holds the interest throughout.
Unsurprisingly, there’s not a huge amount of action on show, with most of the films set pieces and confrontations revolving around dialogue or pained verbal exchanges. Yau does work in a few stabbings and shootouts along the way, and this helps to keep the film moving along at a decent pace. Though it’s not necessarily a bad thing, the lack of anything too explosive or thrilling gives the proceedings the feel of an extended television episode, if perhaps one with a respectable amount of ambition.
As a result, although not really one of Herman Yau’s best recent outings, “Turning Point 2” is entertaining enough, and still has plenty to offer either long time Laughing Gor fans or anyone just looking for a slightly more substantial Hong Kong crime drama. Heavy on meaningfulness and moral pondering rather than action, it’s a fairly intelligent and complex mixture, though one which probably should mark the end of the Laughing saga before he outstays his welcome.
Herman Yau (director) / Tin-Shing Yip (screenplay)
CAST: Michael Tse … Leung Siu Tong (Laughing Gor)
Francis Ng … Fok Tin Yam
Chapman To … Tai Chit
Bosco Wong … So Sing Pak (Michael)
Kara Hui … Sa Po Yau
Kate Tsui … Yiu Ho Ho (Paris)
Janice Man … Carmen