never believe in fate," says Lee Rock (Andy Lau).
"I only believe what belongs to me will be mine."
And for the most part, what Lee Rock wants, Lee Rock
gets during the span of this second chapter in the
award-winning saga, as the title character ascends
from the rank of lowly police officer to the most
powerful man in the Hong Kong police department, if
not all of Hong Kong itself. Through pure force of
will, a keen mind, and an uncanny ability to forge
connections with others, Lee amasses untold power.
But as it turns out, there's just one thing he's missing
dearly: his one true love.
After a brief recap
of the first film, Lee Rock II picks up where
its predecessor left off, dealing with the cliffhanger
revelation that Lee Rock's long-lost first love Rose
(Chingmy Yau) is not only still alive, but has a young
son named Yin, who is unequivocally Lee's child as
well. Of course, this wonderful surprise proves somewhat
problematic, considering that Lee is already happily
married to a woman named Grace (Cheung Man). However,
just when viewers might expect a bitter love triangle
to ensue, a surprising thing occurs - Grace graciously
accepts the situation and gives her blessing for Lee
to take Rose as his second wife. However, just as
Lee Rock is about to reunite with Rose and form one
big happy family, a ruling comes down from on high
that outlaws polygamy in Hong Kong. In reaction to
this new law, Rose disappears from Lee's life once
again, taking her young son along with her.
Despite this sad turn
of events, Lee Rock focuses on his gradual ascension
to power within the ranks of the police force. It
seems that brutality, bribery, and deep-rooted corruption
are just part and parcel of a policeman's everyday
life, a fact which is most clearly on display in regard
to Lee's bitter, long-running feud with Ngan Tung
(Paul Chun Pui), as they scrape it out for a coveted
promotion. With the backing of some Hong Kong drug
dealers, Ngan Tung is able to bribe himself into the
position, a feat which seemingly leaves Lee Rock out
in the cold. However, the ever-crafty Lee successfully
maneuvers to have a brand new position created especially
for him, one that will give him even more power than
the position Ngan stole out from under him. In this
new role, Lee implements a revised payoff system for
the police, one that streamlines the previous schemes,
minimizes criminal behavior, and succeeds in fattening
not only Lee Rock's wallet, but those of his colleagues
as well. Years pass, as Lee Rock and his allies start
living the high life, seemingly untouchable in regard
to their criminal behavior.
However, Lee Rock's
fortunes take a turn for the worse when a new police
commissioner arrives from London and discovers that
the police department's spotless reputation and knack
for crime prevention is all due to its deep seated
corruption. Recognizing Lee as a threat, the new commissioner
"promotes" Lee to the rank of inspector,
although the position itself is a demeaning one that
is meant to take him completely out the loop. Even
more threatening is the establishment of the Independent
Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), a no-nonsense
bureau that Lee can't bribe or cajole into laying
off. Smartly, Lee decides it's time to retire from
the force and flee to Canada if he wants to avoid
prosecution. But the thing is, Lee's professional
difficulties are only the tip of the iceberg. Earlier,
he discovered that his son, Bill Lee Yung-Yin (now
played by Aaron Kwok) has not only signed up the ICAC,
but is also dead set on prosecuting his own father,
sparing no quarter despite their blood relations.
But if Yin is in Hong Kong, then that means Lee's
beloved Rose can't be far behind. Once again, Lee
seeks her out, hoping to make his family whole. But
considering Yin's hatred for Lee, and Rose's failing
health, can things ever be reconciled? And to make
matters worse, it seems Ngan Tung has directed some
assassins toward Lee. Is there a chance in hell that
this family will ever be united again?
When all is said and
done, Lee Rock II makes for an entertaining,
if somewhat muddled, cinematic experience. The heart
and soul of the film is Andy Lau, who turns in a magnetic
performance as the film's complicated title character.
When the plot shifts ahead in time, Lau dons old age
makeup to accurately portray the aging Lee Rock. Surprisingly,
Lau is able to convincingly portray an elderly man,
as the scenes between Lau and Kwok, who are only four
years apart in age, are surprisingly credible. The
few scenes Lau shares with Chingmy Yau are unexpectedly
touching, especially considering the smarmy, ruthless
demeanor Lau must maintain for the majority of the
film as the "all-business" Lee Rock. It's
a shame that more tender moments didn't exist between
Lee Rock and his two love interests since the romantic
angle plays well to Andy Lau's strengths as an actor.
While smarmy is something Lau can do quite well, it's
not exactly an endearing character trait.
The film's supporting
cast members do a fine job, although some get shortchanged
during the proceedings. Cheung Man, so alluring and
integral to the first part of Lee Rock, takes a backseat
in this film; her few scenes seem to be limited to
merely "looking concerned" about her husband
rather than giving her something substantial to do
as a character. Similarly, Chingmy Yau doesn't fare
too much better. Even with her dramatic reintroduction
to the plot at the beginning of the film, she just
as quickly bows out of the narrative until she's needed
in Lee Rock II's final act. The men in the
film, however, are given more to do as characters.
Ng Man-Tat makes for an entertaining comedic presence
as Lee Rock's old pal. As Lardo, Ng successfully takes
on the type of role he would go on to play alongside
Stephen Chow in many films, proving here to be welcome
comic relief in an overridingly serious narrative.
On the flip side of this fun-loving character, there's
Paul Chun Pui as Ngan Tung, who creates a villain
that audiences will surely love to hate, one that
they hope will surely get his comeuppance by story's
And while he does sport
a dopey haircut for most of the film, Aaron Kwok does
a fine job in a role reminiscent of Leslie Cheung's
in that seminal John Woo classic, A Better Tomorrow,
that is, the "righteous" family member who
will stop at nothing to put his corrupt relative (in
Cheung's case, it was his own brother) behind bars.
However, as with Cheung's character, Yin begins to
learn that clear-cut notions of right and wrong are
not quite as simple as he first assumed. In fact,
this seems to be the underlying point of the film.
Admittedly, the filmmakers might have overdone it
a bit, since late in the film, there's a scene in
which Lardo reprimands Yin for his lack of filial
piety, but for his black-and-white way of looking
things. Although it's a compelling moment, it perhaps
draws too fine a point on the issue.
As such, Lee Rock
II is essentially a film about people who do very,
very bad things for, in some cases, very good reasons.
Lee Rock himself represents the type of person who
believes that since crime and criminals will always
exist, it's pointless to try to eradicate them from
society. Instead, it would be more practical, in Lee's
view anyhow, to limit and regulate crime, and while
they're at it, maybe make a few bucks off of it as
well. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the film
is how closely Lee Rock and Ngan Tung resemble Mafia
dons looking to muscle in on each other's territories.
The irony, of course, is that these two are some of
the most genuinely respected cops in the department.
These moral incongruities give Lee Rock II
an extra layer of substance in what easily could have
been just another cops n' robbers movie.
Considering that there's
enough story in the film to fill up a whole season
of television drama episodes, it's no surprise that
Lee Rock II is all over the place tonally.
While predominantly a serious cop drama, the film
also veers into low comedy and even melodrama at times,
eventually settling into the kind of ballistic action
movie that Hong Kong cinema has become famous for
providing. And certainly, Lee Rock II's climactic
guns blazing, glass shattering, blood spurting wheelchair
shootout of death must be seen to be truly appreciated.
The over-the-top audacity of this sequence is worth
the price of admission alone. Although from a construction
standpoint, that sort of action scene might seem completely
out-of-place in the movie, it pretty much follows
the message of the film. Like its main character,
Lee Rock II is a film full of contradictions
and incongruities, but even so, it's an entertaining,
surprisingly thought provoking film all the same.
(Calvin McMillin 2006)