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Film Review: The White Storm 2 - Drug Lords (2019)

Updated: Jan 1


Film Review: The White Storm 2 - Drug Lords (2019)
FILE PHOTO: A Still Image of THE WHITE STORM 2 - DRUG LORDS (2019). ©Universe Entertainment

The White Storm 2


The White Storm 2 - Drug Lords (2019) is not a real sequel to The White Storm (Dir. Benny Chan; 2013) because it has only a normal theme and the actor Louis Koo in a different role. Audiences 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 strategic 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 momentum locally, but they have 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 are available for distribution. Moreover, registered film / TV/ video / commercial and other entertainment industrial workers only totaled 16,459 people in Hong Kong. 


Obviously, the annual increase of Hong Kong cinema's 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 the coming years and decades. Only a few established Hong Kong main film crew figures and casts with the vast majority of unknown Mainland film workers will only empty its local film productivity base itself. As a result, purely localized film production is facing increasing difficulties. None of the leading figures of the 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 in both production and market share in its own territory. There is no big governmental support for its purely localized film production and distribution. (1) 


The White Storm 2 - Drug Lords (2019) is politically matured and critically sophisticated due to its director, Herman Yau, who only keeps an anti-corruption attitude to Hong Kong society like all leading film directors. It is also a creative contribution by his long-term partner, scriptwriter Erica Lee.


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 in the present can form a thematic comparison and conflict for the audience. And it is a political and social reality that is represented by some notorious examples, like financial alligator George Soros, 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 was still a drug lord. 


In fact, drug dealers themselves won't consume its poisoned drugs. Drugs are a sheer money-making device for the mafia groups. The drug business is pure capitalist business. It crystallizes the nature of capitalism. Drugs are to make artificially ''needs'' among its victimized 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 the Japanese word ''Jizo'', which means the stone statue of Kṣitigarbha. It is definitely opposed by the character Jizo, who is a native. 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 recognized by the audience. Unfortunately, his doggy-like sex scene is a failure because it is not like a sex scene. 


Jizo (Louis Koo)'s motivation is revenge on Yu Shun-tin and the Ching Hing (正興) triad due to his ousting and chopping off of his finger by his 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 ties 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 about 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 defamiliarized 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), their character's functions are so obvious. 


Chrissie Chau played the ex-girlfriend of Yu, May Chan, who makes his son Danny. Her acting is always the same, but in this film she tries to make up for a dying cancer patient. It's overly done basically. As the result, the audience hardly recognize her under the heavy make-up in the hospital scene. 


For technical aspects, the art department made the greatest contribution to this film's success. The 1:1 replica set of the Central MTR station is astonishing, and many of the audience thought it was really shot in the station with CG effects. However, it's basically shot on a huge set. Thus, the car chasing between 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 the complete depiction of suicidal actions. It's repetitively shown during this film, especially addicted victims and drug dealers who are 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 windows of these buildings until these victims are crushed on the ground. This is what Hollywood films tend to avoid due to its censorship. However, it shows typical features 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 is frequently made in Hong Kong recently because of its attractive and cutting edge action sequences. 




Notes


(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.


 

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to the professional film writer Ryota Nakanishi as author and a link to www.ryotanakanishi.com is provided.

This film article is for educational purpose only.


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Film Review: The White Storm 2 - Drug Lords (2019)

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