Once Upon a Time in Triad Society 2
Hong Kong 1996
Directed by Cha Chuen Yee.

Mainlanders square off against Hongkies in a gang war while a cop tries to keep his pregnant wife clear of the resulting carnage.

After the success of Once Upon a Time in Triad Society, a second movie in the series was quickly put together and released. But Once Upon a Time in Triad Society 2 is in many ways very different from the original. Although it still lampoons Triad Boys films by illustrating the complete lack of heroism in triad life, it also plays out its own version of the pending 1997 takeover of Hong Kong, pleading like Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?" The answer is, unfortunately, no.

The movie divides its time between three protagonists over the course of a single, very long, 24 hour period. First there is Dagger (Francis Ng), a very different sort of triad follower than Kwan in Once Upon a Time in Triad Society. Dagger is a nobody, not particularly mean, just a regular joe. He pimps a prostitute and loves spending all his time playing Mah-Jongg with the Madam and a gay transvestite who keeps pleading with him to take him on as another prostitute. Then there is Dinosaur (three time Young and Dangerous villain Roy Cheung), another small timer who dreams of being somebody famous in triad society. He has his own group of followers, who he entertains with stories about the 'God of Swords,' the greatest triad gangster of all. He calls up all the triad bosses he knows to try and find some work for them, they are so over eager be like their idol. And finally there is Officer 2386 (Cheung Tat Ming), who is constantly fighting with his pregnant wife over stupid little things. The action is set in motion by Bullet, a rough mainland gangster who seems intent on smashing up and taking over all the local gang's territory. His actions quickly escalate into an all out gang war, scheduled to start at 10:00 at night in Mongkok, where all the players in this drama converge. Officer 2386 is told to find out where the fight is going to take place or he will lose his job. Dinosaur and his friends finally get called in to fight for the mainland boss. Dagger is called to fight for the local boss, though he avoids it as long as possible, he and his cross-dressing friend have no choice but to head out to the fight.

As it gets closer to 10:00, more and more people fill in the streets of Mongkok. One of the gangs puts on white gloves, sort of like playing shirts vs. skins. They line up on either side of the street, occasionally calling out at each other. It seems at the last minute that the fight is not going to take place, but tensions are high, and a single misunderstanding leads to the violence everyone had tried so hard to avoid. The gang fight is brutal and bloody. By 11:00, the fight is over, but Dagger's evening is just getting started, and is about to take a turn for the worse.

With the mainlanders on one side of the street, Hongkies on the other, it's difficult not to think of the impending 1997 turnover. In fact, it's blatantly obvious. So obvious, that I think the filmmakers are, in a way, lampooning the 1997 analogies that have become a standard part of Hong Kong films in the 90's. As the tension is rising, the Officer cries, "If there is something wrong, just talk, negotiate. They will hurt the innocent people. I am, Outsiders are, Hong Kong people are so innocent!" And his partner gives him the thumbs up: "This is a great allegory!" And so it is. So when it seems things will end peacefully, but a misunderstanding becomes the flashpoint of sudden violence, the allegory has chilling ramifications, indeed.

There are many very funny moments in this film, propelled like its predecessor by the manic energy of Francis Ng in another classic performance. While Cheung Tat Ming as the Officer must shoulder the Mainland-Hong Kong allegory, and Roy Cheung as Dinosaur is mostly there to show how incredibly stupid it is to believe triad hero myths, Francis Ng as Dagger is allowed free reign to create an original character, an unlucky small timer who nevertheless may prove himself to be smarter than all the rest of them.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on May 08, 2004.

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