A suspected criminal mastermind escapes from police custody, throwing the city into turmoil. With the police department now divided, rival police chiefs are forced to take their fight to the streets of Hong Kong—with deadly consequences.
Walking into the middle of a movie and trying to figure out what is going on, who the characters are, and why they're doing what they're doing is the worst way to enjoy a flick. You're at a disadvantage of not knowing the characters, you don't know the story setups, and you've broken the careful pacing the skilled filmmakers endeavored to build to create drama and tension. And yet, every time we channel surf and stop on something that looks interesting that's exactly what we're doing. In the case of Longman Leung and Sunny Luk's slick action thriller 'Cold War II,' I found myself entering the middle of a movie and having to figure out the history of the characters and their motivations as the film steamrolled ahead - which wasn't actually a bad thing.
After the raids that tore Hong Kong apart and nearly destroyed the police department, Commissioner Lau (Aaron Kwok) was hoping to lay his fallen comrades to rest and enjoy some semblance of peace as the nefarious Joe Lee (Eddie Pang) rots behind bars. But Joe Lee's partners have other plans. When they kidnap Lau's wife, they force his hand into releasing Lee from prison. When the operation goes south and results in the bombing of a commuter train, the media crucify Lau and his decisions. With the police forging a special task force under the helm of ICAC offer Billy Cheung (Aarif Rahman) to hunt down Lee and his gang, Lau is being investigated by Oswald Kan (Chow Yun-fat), a self-serving political figure looking to enhance his own career. As revelations of Joe Lee and his relationship to certain high-ranking police officials surface, a plot to seize control of the Hong Kong police department comes to light.
At the outset I have to say that I was aware of the first 'Cold War,' but never saw it. To that end, I came into 'Cold War II' without any knowledge of previous events or characters and I was pushed into reading about the first film and not actually see it for myself. It's an irritating position to be in, I'd much rather actually watch the film and strike out from there, but I couldn't lay my hands on a copy in time to work this review. That said, I didn't mind not knowing 100% of everything that was going on. Maybe a little preface at the beginning would have helped newcomers, but I honestly didn't have any trouble catching up with the action. So in that respect, 'Cold War II' is a solid action thriller that wastes no time getting into the mix of things. On the flip side, I also feel like the film is more of a tacked-on fourth act to the first film.
While the plot mechanics and character development require a full-length feature film to run through, what is actually brought to the story doesn't entirely feel necessary. It's almost like watching a movie that just doesn't know how to end itself and felt the need to add one last epilogue to an already concluded story. That isn't altogether a bad thing, but since so much of the "new revelations" after the events of the first film seem rather obvious - you only need to pay attention to character's last names to know what I'm getting at - that much of this film feels unnecessary. AN example would be the entire plot thread involving Chow Yun-fat's Oswald Kan. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the man in movies, but his character really doesn't add anything or the truths he uncovers since these were all fairly on the nose pieces that Aaron Kwok's Lau should have already picked up on. I admit to having a prolonged feeling of "why am I watching this" as each story revelation came out. That said, the film does deliver some genuine excitement and action set pieces - in particular, the tunnel shootout scene - so it certainly isn't boring, just not as fulfilling as it possibly could have been.
'Cold War II' may not have blown my hair back or put itself on the stage of top tier Hong Kong flicks of recent years, it still manages to entertain. I have a hunch that if I had been able to see the original film my reaction wouldn't have been as dulled because for all intents and purposes this is very much like 'Halloween II.' It picks up relatively quickly after the first film with little time break in between stories; like watching the second half of a long movie. As a singular experience it may not be the greatest, but taken as a whole with the first film, it may work a lot better.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Cold War II' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA. Pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy snapper Blu-ray case. The disc loads to trailers for other upcoming Well Go USA releases before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. Included inside is a leaflet featuring cover art for other recent Well Go USA Blu-rays.
'Cold War II' continues Well Go USA's tradition of providing top-tier transfers for their releases. This 2.39:1 1080p transfer is gorgeous! Digitally sourced, the image is loaded with fine details, offering up clear and discernible facial features right down to individual hairs on character's heads! Clothing, production design work, the film's many wide shots of Hong Kong all look terrific like you're watching a high-end travel show. Colors are natural with plenty of primary presence that tends to favor cooler hues without impacting that desired "pop," but flesh tones look spot on. Black levels are spot on and provide the image a natural sense of three-dimensional depth. The only thing that is keeping this from earning a full five-star grade is some odd reoccurring banding. I didn't spot anything that looked like edge enhancement was applied, no crunchy lines or hard edges, but every now and again it pops in there. In spite of that one flaw, this is a damn great looking image.
'Cold War II' gives viewers the choice of two equally impressive audio mixes, Cantonese or Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1 with English subtitles. Other than the default Cantonese having a more natural match to the lip movements, both tracks are virtually identical. They both enjoy clean, crisp, and clear dialogue. Sound effects are well layered with beautiful imaging that provides near-constant surround activity. Scoring is clear and mixed well and only really ever dominates the action scenes. Levels are spot on as well so once you have it set at a comfortable volume, you should be good to go without needing to make adjustments.
Behind The Scenes: (HD 9:06 total) Consisting of A Powerhouse Cast, The Story, The Three Powers, VFX and Action, these are your basic EPK materials, very brief, and not much depth to them.
'Cold War II' works in its own way - as an extension to a previous film. It doesn't feel altogether like a sequel usually does. It's not merely a new adventure with a returning cast but a continuation of events from a previous film. If you haven't seen the first film, you won't be entirely lost in the weeds, but the film is essentially an elongated epilogue. Thankfully the action sequences are pretty intense and make the flick a worthwhile watch. Well Go USA has pulled together a terrific A/V presentation for this film. Unfortunately, the bonus features are slim. If you've seen the first film you should be more than happy with this one, but if you're like me and coming into this completely cold, it's still worth a look.