REVIEW / ACTION THRILLER
COLD WAR 2 (rating to be announced)
110 minutes/Opens on Friday/2.5 stars
The story: In Cold War (2012), deputy police commissioners Sean Lau (Aaron Kwok) and Waise Lee (Tony Leung Ka Fai) butted heads over the handling of the hijacking of a fully equipped police van. Waise's cop son Joe (Eddie Peng) was eventually jailed for masterminding the daring crime. It ended on a cliffhanger when Sean received a phone call instructing that Joe be released. The sequel picks up at this point. Although Sean is now the police commissioner, his position is at stake and his actions are questioned by a panel of legal experts, which includes a formidable Oswald Kan (Chow Yun Fat). Can he hang on to his job and unravel the big conspiracy that stretches up to the highest echelons of power in Hong Kong?
There was always going to be a sequel to Cold War and not just because it ended on a cliffhanger. The film was a popular and critical success - the highest-grossing domestic film in Hong Kong in recent years, with more than HK$44 million (S$7.7 million) earned and a haul of nine prizes at the Hong Kong Film Awards, including for Best Film.
Unfortunately, scripting and directing pair Longman Leung and Sunny Luk seem to have written themselves into a corner in this instalment.
The greater conspiracy hinted at in the earlier film is revealed here, unsatisfactorily, to be a kingmaker pulling the strings behind the scenes. The villain's motivation and his relationship with Joe are unconvincing, not to mention terribly complicated. At the same time, the idea of a cabal of crooks controlling the agenda from on high comes across as too sweeping and easy.
What helped to make the first film riveting was that audiences were kept guessing which team Tony Leung Ka Fai's Waise was truly on. After establishing him as a good guy, the film-makers throw his loyalties into doubt again, unnecessarily, implausibly and unoriginally.
While Leung and Luk have thrown new characters, from Chow Yun Fat's combative Oswald Kan to his sort-of goddaughter/nosy investigator Isabel Au (Janice Man), into the fray, they come across as superfluous distractions who are never fully fleshed out.
Everything seems over the top, from the intrusive, bombastic music score to a shoot-out scene in a tunnel that descends into ridiculousness. And there is so much macho posturing from Leung, Kwok and Chow that it quickly gets old.
Without the lingering goodwill from the first flick, this overcooked sequel would have left me totally cold.