HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Three Musketeers in Cavalier Boots
Hunter's Prayer, The
Country
Absolution
Rough Draft, A
Battle of the Godfathers
Lu Over the Wall
She's Funny That Way
Vox Lux
Aftermath, The
Five Fingers for Marseilles
Jupiter's Moon
Favourite, The
Mysteries of the Gods
Coming Home
De Sade
Patti Cake$
Hellbound
Final Destination 2
Romance
Bros: After the Screaming Stops
Cockleshell Heroes, The
Mule, The
Sunday in the Country
Nutcracker Fantasy
Spellcaster
Hipsters
Executive Action
Captain Marvel
Zombie Girl
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Rhinoceros
Monkey King 3, The
Adventurers, The
Stripped to Kill
Daughter of Dr. Jekyll
Aladdin's Magic Lamp
Christopher Robin
Hole in the Ground, The
Daniel
   
 
Newest Articles
Wondrous Women: Supergirl vs Captain Marvel
Things Have Changed: Films You'd Be Insane to Make Now
The Hole in the Ground: Director Lee Cronin Interview
She's Missing: Director Alexandra McGuinness Interview
Woo's the Boss: Last Hurrah for Chivalry & Hand of Death on Blu-ray
Get Ahead in Showbiz: Expresso Bongo and It's All Happening
Outer Space and Outta Sight: Gonks Go Beat on Blu-ray
Tucked: The Derren Nesbitt Interview
Locomotion Pictures: The Best of British Transport Films on Blu-ray
Roman Scandals: Extreme Visions from Ancient Rome
Spider-Wrong and Spider-Right: The Dragon's Challenge and Into the Spider-Verse
Monster Dog: Cujo on Blu-ray
For Christ's Sake: Jesus Christ Superstar and The Last Temptation of Christ
Not In Front of the Children: Inappropriate Kids Movies
Deeper into Ozploitation: Next of Kin and Fair Game
   
 
  Better Tomorrow II, A Brothers in ArmsBuy this film here.
Year: 1987
Director: John Woo
Stars: Chow Yun-Fat, Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung, Dean Shek, Guan Shan, Emily Chu, Kenneth Tsang, Shing Fui-On, Lam Chung, Ng Man Tat, Lung Ming-Yan, Wang Zheng-Fang, Louis Roth, Regina Kent, Ken Boyle, Lau Siu-Ming, Mike Abbott, Lau Chin-Dai, Leung Ming
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rating:  9 (from 2 votes)
Review: Following the genre-defining Hong Kong heroic bloodshed smash that was A Better Tomorrow (1986) proved no easy task for action auteur John Woo and ace producer Tsui Hark, especially since the finale left its iconic hero in no shape to star in a sequel. Of course, no enterprising Hong Kong filmmaker would let that stop them, so meet Ken (Chow Yun-Fat, of course!), Mark's identical twin brother! In fact, the twin gambit plays less absurd than it sounds and part two both expands Woo's original themes and, naturally, ups the ante on the action.

Now back behind bars, good-hearted gangster Ho (Ti Lung) learns his policeman kid brother Kit (Leslie Cheung) has gone undercover in order to expose triad boss Lung Sei (Dean Shek) as the brains behind a counterfeit ring. Kit’s feigned romancing of Lung's daughter Peggy (Regina Kent) is upsetting his pregnant wife Jackie (Emily Chu), so Ho joins him undercover to keep him safe from harm. It transpires that, just like Ho in the original movie, Lung wants to go straight but is being set-up by his turncoat ally, crimelord Gou Ying Pui (Guan Shan) who frames him for murder and kills his beloved daughter. A sympathetic Ho smuggles Lung to America where traumatic assassination attempts drive him to an insane asylum, which is where he is discovered by Ken and the fun really starts.

John Woo's up-and-down Hollywood career had the lamentable side-effect of leading many vocal Hong Kong film fans to reassess his once unassailable early classics. It has since become fashionable to maintain Woo only ever had one good film in him, the original A Better Tomorrow, and all that followed were merely overblown parodies of its psychologically solid themes. Which as any fan of The Killer (1989), A Bullet in the Head (1990), Once a Thief (1991) and Hard Boiled (1992) can tell you, is utter nonsense. Whereas the first film was actually a remake of the acclaimed Story of a Discharged Prisoner (1967), with part two Woo crafted his own storyline - one that truly established his unique juxtaposition of manic, hyper-stylized gunplay, poetic characters and impassioned, intensely personal themes. Far from the mindless bullet-fest it is often dismissed as, A Better Tomorrow II weaves a complex and compelling story paying close attention to character nuance and layered symbolism. Note the use of something as seemingly innocuous as an orange as an emblem of brotherhood, a shooting star as a harbinger of death, plus Woo's repeated use of dance, music and other aspects of culture as a gentle contrast to the brutality of the triad world. It is no coincidence that heroes like Kit and Ken are as smooth with their moves as they are handy with their guns.

All the familiar thematic motifs are present and accounted for, only cranked up to eleven: chivalric gangsters who value honour and decency above material success ("Walk in with your head held high. Leave with your head held high", says Lung), Christian ideals set against criminal amorality (Lung finds refuge at a church run by an old colleague-turned-priest (Wang Zheng-Fang) and bonds with a little girl who reminds him of his daughter, both of whom fall victim to senseless violence), and the reoccuring question of true heroism is all about - as ultimately defined by the unflappably intrepid Chow Yun-Fat. Cast as an even more legendary, swaggering tough guy than his twin brother, Ken runs a restaurant in New York city where he keeps young punks on the straight and narrow and puts gwailo gangsters in their place. His infamous "You don't like my rice?" confrontation with one mafioso (Louis Roth) deserves to be as quoted as the "Funny, how?" scene in Goodfellas (1990). Whereas Chow's breakout turn in the first film caught many people by surprise, here Woo evidently set out to give the public what they wanted and then some. Namely, to see Chow wield an arsenal of automatic weapons to wipe out legions of triad scum-bags. "You must learn to act with panache", Ken tells Kit at one point, which is something he certainly does sliding backwards down a flight of stairs, blasting away with twin hand-cannons.

Tsui Hark was equally intent on crafting this film as showcase for the dramatic talents of his friend Dean Shek. Shek was better known as a comedian and had been around since the late Sixties at Shaw Brothers appearing in musicals, comedies and martial arts films. In the Eighties he co-founded Cinema City with fellow comedian Karl Maka and producer Raymond Wong and produced some of the most important and influential movies of the era, including several of John Woo and Tsui Hark's breakthrough films. At the time, Shek had fallen out with his producing partners and relocated to America until Hark lured him back to Hong Kong with this gem of a part. As the tragic Lung, he proves every bit as compelling as Shaw Brothers legend Ti Lung and the much-missed Cantopop idol turned movie icon Leslie Cheung, and shares a cracking scene with Chow as they walk a symbolic path down a corridor fraught with danger. Elsewhere, A Better Tomorrow II includes arguably two of the most emotionally shattering scenes Woo ever filmed. (Spoiler warning!) Firstly, when Ho is forced to put a bullet in his beloved brother to prove his fealty to the odious Gou Ying Pui. Secondly, the moment Kit expires listening to the cries of his newborn baby over the phone.

Of course it is all building up to the moment Chow dons his iconic ensemble: toothpick, shades and bullet-ridden trenchcoat and joins his sharp-suited buddies for an apocalyptic assault on Gou Ying Pui's mansion. Ti Lung breaks out his old Shaw Brothers kung fu and sword skills for extra carnage in what is simply one of the most spectacular and outrageous action set-pieces ever staged, including some neat nods to Scarface (1983), Taxi Driver (1976), and Woo's old mentor Chang Cheh. While the series probably should have ended on this high note, Tsui Hark took the reins for the interestingly offbeat A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon (1989) before Wong Jing mounted the crass and exploitative Return To A Better Tomorrow (1994). And of course there was the sacreligious Korean remake of A Better Tomorrow (2010) but that's a whole other story.


Click here for the trailer

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 1547 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

John Woo  (1946 - )

One of the most influential directors working in the modern action genre. Hong Kong-born Woo (real name Yusen Wu) spent a decade making production-line martial arts movies for the Shaw Brothers before his melodramatic action thriller A Better Tomorrow (1987) introduced a new style of hyper-realistic, often balletic gun violence.

It also marked Woo's first collaboration with leading man Chow-Yun Fat, who went on to appear in a further three tremendous cop/gangster thrillers for Woo - A Better Tomorrow II, The Killer and Hard Boiled. The success of these films in Hong Kong inspired dozens of similar films, many pretty good, but few with Woo's artistry or emphasis on characters as well as blazing action.

In 1993, Woo moved over to Hollywood, with predictably disappointing results. Face/Off was fun, but the likes of Broken Arrow, Windtalkers and Mission: Impossible 2 too often come across as well-directed, but nevertheless generic, studio product. Needs to work with Chow-Yun Fat again, although his return to Hong Kong with Red Cliff proved there was life in the old dog yet.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star do you think makes the best coffee?
Emma Stone
Anna Kendrick
Michelle Rodriguez
Sir Patrick Stewart
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
  Desbris M
Paul Shrimpton
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
  Derrick Smith
Darren Jones
   

 

Last Updated: