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A Better Tomorrow II
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"Screw you ,Tarantino!"

(from left to right) Chow Yun-Fat, Ti Lung, Dean Shek and Kenneth Tsang.
Chinese: 英雄本色II  
Year: 1987  
Director: John Woo  
Producer: Tsui Hark
Action: Ching Siu-Tung
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing, Dean Shek Tin, Guan Shan, Shing Fui-On, Kenneth Tsang Kong, Emily Chu Bo-Yee, Regina Kent, Ng Man-Tat
The Skinny: It's Woo-time! John Woo returns to the director's chair for this popular sequel to his 1986 hit film. Partly a straightforward follow-up and partly a tongue-in-cheek parody, A Better Tomorrow II contains most of the celebrated Woo-isms that fans have come to love: heroic bloodshed, two-pistols-a-pumpin' action, and a little Christian symbolism to boot. No white doves though.
Review by

Before Quentin Tarantino introduced the world to Vincent Vega, Jules Winfield, and those wacky Reservoir Dogs, he watched three cool cats from A Better Tomorrow II work their magic: Chow Yun-Fat, Ti Lung, and Dean Shek. Sure, this oft-imitated John Woo flick surpassed the box office success of its predecessor and helped set the standard for the emerging "gun-fu" crime genre of the 1980s, but is it really any good? Well, yes and no.

First, a little refresher course: the first film involved the travails of Ho (Ti Lung) and Kit (Leslie Cheung), two brothers separated by their professions. One's a slick crook, the other an ambitious cop. As fate would have it, the two joined forces by movie's end, and along with super-cool gangster Mark (Chow Yun-Fat), vanquished the evil crime boss. But their victory had a price: Mark's life and Ho's freedom.

The sequel follows Ho as he's freed from prison to infiltrate the inner circle of suspected criminal Lung (Dean Shek). Ho agrees to the deal, but only to protect Kit, who is romancing Lung's cutesy daughter Peggy in an effort to get closer to the big man. Well, somewhere in the process Peggy ends up dead and Lung gets set up for the murder of a rival triad. With the help of Ho, the innocent Lung retreats to America where, after experiencing yet another traumatic bloodbath, he promptly becomes a foaming-at-the-mouth idiot.

Enter Chow Yun-Fat as Ken, Chinese restaurateur and twin brother of the deceased Mark, who nurses the helpless Lung back to health. The two new friends finally return to Hong Kong, reuniting with Ho and Kit to take down the bad guys. But the fearsome foursome lasts only so long. Tragedy strikes yet again, forcing the remaining members to go after the new crime boss on their own. But don't worry, they have guns - lots and lots of guns. Let the carnage begin.

A Better Tomorrow II has its moments (Chow Yun-Fat mocking his Mark persona for one, the ridiculously intense "Eat the rice!" scene is another), but overall the film is pretty stale when compared to Woo's other signature films. But, while Hard Boiled and The Killer might be better flicks, neither can match the pure aesthetic coolness of A Better Tomorrow II's exhilarating guns-a-blazin' finale. Up until that point, just do some laundry - that's what I do. (Calvin McMillin 2002)


The 7th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
Nomination - Best Actor (Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing)
Nomination - Best Action Design (Ching Siu-Tung)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Intercontinental Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Cantonese Language Track
Remixed Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1
Remixed Cantonese DTS 5.1
Remixed Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
featurette, trailers, photos
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
Also see:

A Better Tomorrow (1986)
A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon (1989)

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image courtesy of Anchor Bay Home Video

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