Updated: Aug 3, 2021
《掃毒2天地對決》The White Storm 2 - Drug Lords (2019) is not a real sequel to The White Storm (Dir. Benny Chan; 2013) because it has only the common theme and the actor Louis Koo in the different role. Audience can directly enjoy this film without any knowledge about the first film and the entire franchise. Sequel films without any continuation of the whole story became a strategical form of franchise in Hong Kong. It differs from any Hollywood film franchise in which complete discontinuation is not allowed by its executives. This franchise tendency is also confirmed by another upcoming sequel film Shock Wave 2 (2019). Furthermore both of them are produced and distributed by Universe Entertainment.
Hong Kong films lost its momentum locally but it has been in the Mainland China co-production project era since 2003. It proved to be the most thriving strategic production model for the Chinese local city Hong Kong. However Hong Kong film productivity itself is doubted that it only produced 53 films in 2018 contrary to 300 foreign films shown in the city where only 55 cinemas available for distribution. Moreover registered film / TV/ video / commercial and other entertainment industrial workers are only totalled 16,459 people in Hong Kong.
Obviously the annual increase of Hong Kong cinema produced capital of 9% (6.1 billion renminbi) is heavily relied on resources of Mainland China. This industrial mode of Hong Kong film production won't change in upcoming years and decades. Only a few established Hong Kong main film crew figures and casts with vast majority of unknown Mainland film workers will only empty its local film productivity base itself. As the result, purely localised film production is facing increasing difficulties. None of leading figures of Hong Kong film industry have rights to oppose the tendency due to their heavy dependency on Mainland China projects for survival. Hong Kong actually lost its balance for both production and market share in its own territory. There is no big governmental support on its purely localised film production and distribution. (1)
The White Storm 2 - Drug Lords (2019) is politically matured and critically sophisticated due to its director Herman Yau (1961-) who only keeps anti-corruption attitude on Hong Kong society among all leading film directors. It is also a creative contribution by his long term partner script writer Erica Lee (1966-).
Direction and Acting
The protagonist Yu Shun-tin (Andy Lau)'s drug lord background in the past and anti-drug philanthropist and financial tycoon status at the present can form a thematic comparison and conflict to audience. And it is a political and social reality that represented by some notorious example like financial alligator George Soros (1930-) who is not welcomed by Hong Kong stock market dealers and its government. It could be sharper than the character setting if Yu Shun-tin still is a drug lord.
In fact, drug dealers themselves won't consume its poisoned drugs. Drugs are sheer money making device for the mafia groups. Drug business is pure capitalist business. It crystallises nature of capitalism. Drug is to make artificially ''needs'' among its victimised consumers by addiction; then the addiction plays the same function with advertising; finally it puts victims in a vicious circle of addiction, destruction and money vacuuming. The White Storm 2 - Drug Lords (2019) shows its mechanism more clearly than the other mafia movies of this kind.
The drug dealer Jizo (Louis Koo)'s name is from Japanese word ''Jizo'' which means the stone statue of Kṣitigarbha. It is definitely opposed from its nature of the character Jizo cynically. However Louis Koo's villain role is acceptable, fleshy and it proved his acting talent. A good actor can play characteristically different roles, and its notable differentiation is recognised by audience. Unfortunately his doggy-like sex scene is a failure because it does not like a sex scene.
Jizo (Louis Koo)'s motivation is a revenge on Yu Shun-tin and the Ching Hing (正興) triad due to his ousting and chopping off of his finger by the ex-friend, triad comrade Yu. Yu Shun-tin's role is very similar to Infernal Affairs (2002)'s Senior Inspector Lau Kin-ming. Yu keeps close tie with the Ching Hing (正興) triad even after his success as an anti-drug philanthropist and financial tycoon. It seems that Yu helps the Ching Hing (正興) triad but Herman Yau does not show details on his continuation of the Ching Hing (正興) triad business in some social area. The boss of the Ching Hing (正興) triad Yu Nam (Kent Cheng) developed Yu and provided his financial support. This vagueness and doubt dulled its role or defamiliarised it to some extent. In other words, this character setting and depiction are pretty risky while the antagonist Jizo and the chief superintendent of the Narcotica Bureau Lam Ching-fung (Michael Miu)'s character functions are so obvious.
Chrissie Chau played ex-girlfriend of Yu, May Chan who makes his son Danny. Her acting is always the same but in this film she tried make up of a dying cancer patient. It's overly done basically, as the result, audience hardly recognise her under the heavy make up in the hospital scene.
For technical aspects, art department did the greatest contributions to this film's success. 1:1 replica set of the Central MTR station is astonishing and many audience thought it's really shot in the station with CG effects however it's basically shot at the huge set. Thus the car chase among two major characters Yu and Jizo at the end of ACT3 is outstanding among all car chase scenes made in Hong Kong films in the past. Another memorable viewing experience is complete depiction of suicidal actions. It's repetitively shown during this film, especially addicted victims and drug dealers who assassinated by Yu's the Ching Hing (正興) triad jumping out of high buildings. Herman Yau shows these complete actions of jumping out or throwing out of the roofs or window of these buildings until these victims crushed on the ground. This is what Hollywood films tending to avoid of due to its censorship however it shows typical feature of Hong Kong filmmaking that challenges censorship with more exaggerated depictions of violence. Undoubtedly it depends on CG animation and it's quite obviously identifiable.
Anyway, The White Storm 2 - Drug Lords (2019) is a good entertainment as a mafia action film genre which frequently made in Hong Kong recently because of its attractive and cutting edges of action sequences.
(1) http://hong-kong-economy-research.hktdc.com/business-news/article/香港行業概況/香港影視及娛樂業概況/hkip/tc/1/1X000000/1X0018PN.htm accessed on July 18, 2019.
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