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Lee Rock II
   |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |     also see      | "Aim for the groin, son!"
Aaron Kwok and Andy Lau
  
Year: 1991
Director: Lawrence Lau Kwok-Cheung
Producer: Wong Jing, Jimmy Heung Wah-Sing
Action: Corey Yuen Kwai, Paul Wong Kwan
Cast:

Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing, Cheung Man, Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching, Ng Man-Tat, Paul Chun Pui, Chan Wai-Man, James Tien Chun

The Skinny: Second and final chapter in the story of one man's rise to power within the Hong Kong police department. Clear-cut notions of good and evil are thrown into question thanks to the film's flawed, increasingly tarnished protagonist, a man who somehow still retains a measure of honor and integrity even as he descends further into corruption. Although not as solidly constructed at its predecessor, Lee Rock II brings the saga to a satisfying, if tonally muddled, close.
  Review by
Calvin
McMillin:

      "I 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 end.
     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)

Notes: • On VHS, at least, the entire Lee Rock saga has been edited into three films rather than two.
Availability: DVD (HK)
Region 0 NTSC
Kam & Ronson Enterprise, Co., Ltd.
Lee Rock 2-Disc Boxset
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS ES, Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Subtitles
Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailers, Photo Slideshow, and Collectible Postcards
Also see: Lee Rock (1991)

image courtesy of Panasia Film Limited

   
   
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