Director: Jazz Boon
Cast: Louis Koo, Nick Cheung, Francis Ng, Jiang Peiyao, Joe Ma, Huang Zhizhong, Zhang Yichi, Benjamin Yuen, Joel Chan
Runtime: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence)
Released By: Clover Films & Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 8 August 2019
Synopsis: A frightening car crash in downtown Hong Kong sparks a war between the local police and the international criminal organizations. Superintendent Yip (Francis Ng) and Inspector Ching (Nick Cheung) from the Criminal Intelligence Bureau (Counter Terrorism) has arrested a female hacker named Yiu involved in the accident. But the two police officers are suspected by Superintendent Cheng (Louis Koo) of the Security Wing. Cheng requests the Commissioner of Police to forbid the two to take part in the investigation. Meanwhile, vital clues led them to the far foreign soil of Myanmar and Spain. Cheng and Ching work together but not hard enough to handle their conflicting ideas. While Yip just can’t trust neither one of them, he himself is being watched by the Commissioner who doubts if Yip is covering up evidences of crimes. The Commissioner believes that there have been moles in their midst and thus, a deep probe into a mysterious gang is needed. While everyone in the Police Force might be a rat, and investigation has gone astray by Yiu’s statements, heads of the department are completely clueless about who is good or evil.
2016’s ‘Line Walker’ was intended as closure for fans of the TVB drama of the same name, but thankfully, ‘Line Walker 2’ doesn’t simply intend to be an epilogue of the subsequent TVB follow-up. Oh yes, together with screenwriter Cat Kwan, director Jazz Boon has decided to fashion a whole new story around similar themes of brotherhood, dual identities and loyalty, while retaining the original film’s star-studded cast of Nick Cheung, Louis Koo and Francis Ng. And indeed, this sequel is all the better for being associated with its predecessor only in name, for it is a much more compelling, poignant and thrilling film in its own right.
Here, Ng and Cheung play Superintendent Yip and Inspector Ching from the counter-terrorism branch of the Criminal Intelligence Bureau, who are assigned to investigate a suspected terrorist incident in Tsim Sha Tsui where a car had mowed down pedestrians in broad daylight and the driver had slashed his own throat thereafter. Their investigation leads them to independent journalist Yiu (Jiang Peiyao), who had called the police hotline before the incident warning of its imminence. Not only does both Yip and Ching manage to track Yiu down, they save her in the nick of time from a masked assassin looking to kidnap her.
Unfortunately, their subsequent interrogation is cut short by the sudden appearance of Superintendent Cheng (Louis Koo) from the Security Wing, who says he has the authority of the Commissioner of Police (Joe Ma) to take over jurisdiction of the case. That is however not before Yiu reveals that, in chasing a human trafficking story, she and her colleague had stumbled upon a powerful terrorist group which kidnaps children, trains them to be field agents and has used these agents to infiltrate police organisations around the world, including right there in Hong Kong.
That either Yip, Cheng or Ching could very well be working for the said terrorist group is teased unequivocally right from that point on; in particular, one of these three would have been a boy named Tsai in the opening prologue, who had been living in an orphanage in a village in Philippines back in 1987 before he was kidnapped by operatives from the group. That same prologue also establishes one of the trio would be Tsai’s best friend Ah Dee, who had been the target of the kidnappers before Tsai stepped in to save him and was taken instead. Further complicating their relationship is the fact that Yip had been mentor to Cheng and Ching, and even if the latter two do not trust each other, Yip is willing to vouch for them both.
Without giving anything away, let’s just say that who each of these characters are will be revealed midway through the film. As those familiar with the ‘Line Walker’ series will tell you, their identities are by no means synonymous with their loyalties, and indeed the last third explores just where their convictions lie. There is also a strong emphasis on brotherhood, not only between Yip and Cheng/ Ching for having mentored them, but also between Tsai and Ah Dee despite being separated for many years now. Their game of cat-and-mouse with one another, as well as with the larger terrorist group, will take them from Hong Kong to Myanmar and Spain, and the finale in fact unfolds in two locations at the same time.
Kudos to veteran TVB writer Kwan, who having honed her screenwriting skills in similar series such as ‘Lives of Omission’ (better known for ‘Laughing Gor’), constructs a sufficiently twisty narrative that doesn’t end up tying itself in unnecessary knots. It is also to her credit that the characters here are not lost amidst the swift plotting, and that each of the three key roles is defined not just by who they are but also what they believe in and are prepared to defend. All of this unfolds at a brisk clip within a very economical runtime of slightly over one-and-a-half hours, which makes for a thoroughly gripping watch from start to finish.
As with the previous film, ‘Line Walker 2’ enlists famed choreographer Chin Ka-lok as its action director, and there are at least two elaborate set-pieces here to shout about. One of these unfolds along the busy streets of Yangon in and around the iconic Shwedagon pagoda, and is absolutely exhilarating for its sheer display of firepower; the other takes place amidst the annual bull running festival in Spain, and besides the usual shootouts, stages a remarkable high-speed car chase along its streets with rampaging bulls. Ka-lok’s style emphasises authenticity, and the realism, clearly evident, only makes the spectacle even more astounding.
In the same vein, Ka-lok tailors his stunts to his performers, giving Cheung the chance to wow with a one-on-one close-quarter fight aboard a moving bus, as well as both Cheung and Koo to impress with their gunplay amidst an intense firefight in the middle of a busy thoroughfare. But of course, the real draw is watching Ng, Koo and Cheung bounce off one another with the chemistry of seasoned pros that know just how to complement each other; deserving of special mention is Koo, who in only his third film this year, has grown from strength to strength as an actor tackling multi-layered roles like this one here.
Just because of the sheer star power on display, ‘Line Walker 2’ is one of the must-see Hong Kong films this year. Like we said, Ng, Koo and Cheung each bring gravitas to their respective characters, and are simply magnetic to watch next to one another. In every other respect, the production values are strong and even outstanding, right from the very top with its confident directing and scripting, to the action choreography, and to its attention to locale-specific details. It is by far one of the better action thrillers out of Hong Kong in recent years, and we dare say enough to make us hope for another sequel in due course.
(Far better than its predecessor, this in-name only sequel retains the chemistry of its heavyweight cast for a gripping, even exhilarating, story of brotherhood, dual identities and loyalty)
Review by Gabriel Chong