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The Four II
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The Four 2

Collin Chou and Liu Yifei are two of the Four in The Four II.
Chinese: 四大名捕2
Year: 2013
Director: Gordon Chan Car-Seung, Janet Chun Siu-Jan
Producer: Gordon Chan Car-Seung
Writer: Gordon Chan Car-Seung, Susan Chan Suk-Yin, Woon Swee Oan (original novels)
Action: Ku Huen-Chiu
Cast: Deng Chao, Crystal Liu Yifei, Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Collin Chou (Ngai Sing), Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Jiang Yiyan, Liu Yan, Wu Xiubo, Cheng Tai-Shen, Yu Cheng-Hui, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Sheren Teng Shui-Man, Baobeier, Waise Lee Chi-Hung, Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai, Kathy Chow Hoi-Mei
  The Skinny: Lackluster follow-up to the lackluster The Four does little to make this franchise worth following. Fans of the first will be fine, but those on the fence may wish to err on the side of caution. Featuring the same characters that you didn't care about the first time.
by Kozo:

Action-fantasy sequel The Four II arrives with incredibly lowered expectations, which is awesome because this franchise could use all the help it could get – especially since there’s already a third movie on the way. When we last left the super-powered heroes of the Divine Constabulary, they had just defeated amusingly casual bad guy An Shigeng (Wu Xiubo). But plot threads continue to dangle. The uneasy alliance between the Divine Constabulary and law enforcement body Department Six remains a nagging issue. How will Department Six-Divine Constabulary double agent Leng Lingqi (Deng Chao) resolve his budding love triangle with the Divine Constabulary’s brooding paraplegic Emotionless (Liu Yifei) and Department Six’s femme fatale Ji Yaohua (Jiang Yiyan). Also, Yaohua was previously working for An Shigeng, so she’s even more of a double agent than Lingqi is. Plus, Emotionless’ tragic past gets dredged up and further explored. Wow, that’s a lot of story to remember! Good thing you took notes last time.

If you forgot about the unresolved plot threads from The Four, don’t worry – the filmmakers remind you of them early in The Four II. Unfortunately, said plot threads were not that memorable, a problem compounded in this sequel. Co-directors Gordon Chan and Janet Chun don’t know how to set up what’s essentially a period martial arts mystery, and remove all suspense by simultaneously following the good guys’ investigation and the bad guys’ machinations. The bad guys are led by An Shigeng’s father (Yu Cheng-Hui), who’s pissed because An Shigeng was defeated and must now be connected to a tree to keep him alive. Really. An Shigeng’s survival is also a big deal for Ji Yaohua, who has sweaty nightmares that he’s returning for her. While Yaohua fears for her safety and pines for Lingqi, she and Department Six leader “Sheriff King” Liu (Cheng Taishen) remain wary of the Divine Constabulary and its leader, the sage Zhu Zhengwo (Anthony Wong).

Things get dicier when Lingqi (now called “Coldblood” in the subtitles) suspects that Zhu Zhengwo may be behind a massacre at a remote estate, which is simultaneously discovered by the Divine Constabulary and Department Six while both are inexplicably attending a forest picnic. When confronted by Lingqi, Zhengwo merely tells him to be patient, leading to expected outrage when more people are offed. That outrage is not shared by the audience, however, because Zhengwo is never portrayed as anything but kind and decent, while Lingqi seems like an emo tool stuck in confused alliances and brooding romances. Emotionless doesn’t come off much better, since she’s always dour and upset at her tragic past or her unspoken romantic rivalry with Ji Yaohua. And doesn’t the title of the film specifically reference four heroes? Besides Leng Lingqi and Emotionless, why don’t Life Snatcher (Ronald Cheng) and Iron Hands (Collin Chou) get much focus or development?

There’s a workable storyline in The Four 2 but the filmmakers don’t know how to handle it. Few characters are interesting, and the storytelling is dull and unfocused. Exposition is enormously static, with characters standing around rather than moving actively, and the story is not propelled by its mystery or tension, but by its overcomplicated character dynamics. The actors do what they can, though the material they’re given is so uninspiring that it’s hard to fault them much. Anthony Wong disappoints because he’s a great actor that seems content to collect his paycheck here, while Ronald Cheng and Collin Chou are sorely underused. Jiang Yiyan manages to make Ji Yaohua into a compelling figure – a weird occurrence because she’s not more than the sixth most important character in the film. The biggest disappointment is the relegation of Wu Xiubo to “connected to a tree” duty, where he can’t move or speak. He does communicate telepathically, however, so yay for that.

The action provides sporadic lift, though the choreography mostly consists of wirework and people posing with accompanying visual effects. Storm Riders, this is your legacy. The smaller effects for super powers look fine, but the grander effects fail. There’s lots of green screen work intended to expand the film’s scale, but these larger environments are gratuitous, not to mention jarringly fake. In defense of Four 2, it’s not an insulting nor all-out terrible film. It’s just underwhelming and second-rate – basically the equivalent of a CGI-infused four-quadrant movie like the ones Hollywood produces monthly for teenagers with too much time on their hands. The Four 2 was shot back-to-back with The Four 3, now currently in post-production. Yep, the first Four was such a big hit in the rapidly-growing China market that The Powers That Be fast-tracked two big, bloated and likely just as underwhelming sequels. This is Studio Tentpole Filmmaking 101. Watch out, Hollywood – China will soon learn all your tricks. (Kozo, 12/2013)

Notes: • This review is based on the 2D version of the film.
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Panorama (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital EX / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on 3D Blu-ray Disc
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