Set before events in Wu Jian Dao, the murder of the head of the Ngai family see his son, Hau, stepping up ? immediately upsetting the power balance in the region. Small time boss Sam has a close relationship with officer SP Wong both of whom wish to see the Ngai family removed from the scene. Meanwhile, triad Lau Kin Ming is sent to infiltrate the police force and gradually work his way up with help from Sam while Wong sanctions Chen Wing Yan (the half brother of the Hgai family) to infiltrate the triads and work his way up to Hau.
I approached this film wondering what it would do ? how would it manage to be interesting given that we already know (from part 1) how it goes. I also expected it to be roughly the same as the first film in terms of being an enjoyable thriller ? however this was not the case and it was hard to get into the film for what it was. The story is not really about Yan and Ming so much as it is about the leading figures behind them ? this film belongs to Sam, Wong and Hau and this was a bit of a surprise but one I was able to get over quickly and settle into a pretty interesting story where we see the shift of power in the HK crime families ? unsurprisingly framed by the shift of political power from Britain to China. However interesting it is the film lacks in several areas. Firstly the praise for the first film seems to have got to the makers' heads and part 2 is a much more overblown affair that injects every scene with a sense of overblown drama that it tries to create as oppose to earn. This is a little tiring as it seems to be forcing us to accept the film as some sort of epic where it would have been much more effective to underplay the story and let it stand on its own. Making this more annoying is the fact that the script doesn't really help the audience much and only the sharpest viewer will make it through the first 20 minutes without struggling to get hold of the story and work out who everybody is.
In stark contrast to the tight thriller of part 1, this film is a much bigger story and, as such, occasionally struggled to keep me emotionally involved. Sure, the politics of crime were interesting and produced plenty of good stuff but only occasionally did I get behind the characters and struggle to know who to support like I had in part 1 ? in fact the film could have easily lost Yan and Ming without losing much story. However it is still worth seeing as it does manage as a bit of a twisty crime story (but not a thriller) but even as this it doesn't really stand out as being that great. The loss of the great performances from Lau and Leung is a massive hole that neither Chen or Yue ever get close to filling ? the fact that the material gives them no help either is not their fault. As before, Wong and Tsang are both good and they benefit from being the focus of the prequel. Ng is a good addition as Hau and he is suitably professional, cold and has a powerful presence suiting his character ? it also helps that he was very easy on the eye too! As with the prequel, the female parts are pretty thin and the potential to use Lau's Mary better is not taken.
Overall this is not a bad film by any means; in fact it is an OK story of crime between the ruling families (as shown by a few individuals) however the film hurts itself by trying to force itself into the shape of a 'sprawling crime epic' when nothing in the material actually justifies this aim. The poor use of Yan and Ming is a problem that is only slightly helped by the increased focus on Sam and SP Wong. An OK film but not a scratch on the original and not even necessary viewing to enjoy that better film.