The plotline focuses around the exploits of the Encore Team which is headed by actor Berlin Chen. Apart from the dance and fights - the movie will also include a love story between Chen and a Latin dancer from the rich side of town played by Mainland actress Qiqi Zhou.
China has its own Facebook, its own Google, and now with “Kung Fu Hip Hop 2”, its own Step Up. Indeed, that’s exactly what this in-name only sequel is, right down to its strengths and flaws. Unlike its predecessor, which bothered at least to weave in a story of how kung fu and hip/hop dancing can be associated with each other, this sequel is keen to be a straight-out dance movie with no attempt to justify its use (or lack thereof) of kung fu- other than perhaps to entice Western audiences.
Its plot is straight out of the first, second, or even the third Step Up movie- a group of free-living hip/hop dancers who call themselves “Encore” are thrown into jeopardy when one of their key dancers, Wang Zi (Prince), leaves them to join a new dance crew run by a local nightclub operator. The decisive battle between Encore and their rival dance crew “Gambler China” is a regional dance competition- and just like the Step Up movies, our underdog heroes actually need the prize money from that competition for a greater purpose.
Of course, the by-the-numbers plot just serves as filler to string together the various dance sequences which- following the style of the latest Step Up movie- comes in the vein of street dancing. In between the profuse dancing, director Bowie Lau manages to squeeze in some time for a sappy love story between the leader of Encore, Letian (Berlin Chen), and rich kid Mianmian (Zhou Qiqi) engaged to dance partner Ranqiu (Michael Tse)- no prizes for guessing who she eventually chooses.
By now, one should be accustomed to the lack of depth in a dance movie so there’s no basis to expect a compelling story. But at the very least, this reviewer believes that there needs to be some reason why its audience should be kept engaged throughout the movie- yet even by these minimal standards, this movie falls far short. The characters are uninteresting, the acting totally bland and the story equally inept- the filmmakers are clearly not bothered to even try to eke out some semblance of a movie, and this lack of effort is blatantly obvious.
One would probably be more forgiving were the dancing impressive, but sadly there is little here that you haven’t seen before. At the very best, it highlights a subculture in China that is rapidly gaining popularity among teens, an eye-opener perhaps that there is more to China than the Great Wall or Tiananmen Square. But the first movie was good enough to introduce audiences to street dancing in China, and there’s nothing more that this sequel adds to that.
Perhaps the only gratifying thing about this film is its short running length, which won’t test the patience of viewers. Save for the maudlin love story, much of the movie still manages to breeze by when there’s someone onscreen grooving to the beat. But by the time the music dies down and the dancing stops, there’s an unmistakable feeling that this movie is no more than just another Chinese version of the Step Up franchise. Congratulations China, that’s one more to add to your list of copycats.
Just a trailer and a “Making Of” featurette, which plays like a collection of B-roll footage left over from the movie.
Someone should write a note to the sound designer of the film- Dolby Digital 5.1 doesn’t mean delivering the same audio track at exactly the same volume through all five speakers. That’s exactly what this audio track does, which only makes it echo-ey. Visuals are clean, but like most other equivalent Mandarin titles, aren’t as sharp as their Hollywood counterparts.
Review by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 4 September 2010