Young and Dangerous 2
Hong Kong 1996
Directed by Andrew Lau.

Jordan Chan takes the lead in the second installment, in which the Hung Hing boys become the center of a triad war between rival gangs from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The second installment of the Young and Dangerous series might be subtitled Chicken Goes to Taiwan. You might then ask "Why did Chicken cross the strait?," but if you did I would have to beat you down with a cheap plastic chair. Chicken (Jordan Chan), after his break-up with Chan Ho Nam (Ekin Cheng) in the original Young and Dangerous, leaves for Taiwan to try his luck with his cousin, Swindler Wah. His cousin is a member of the San Luen gang of Taiwan, and after introductions Chicken is allowed to join. It is not long however that Chicken learns that life in a Taiwanese gang is not quite what he expected. Mr. Liu, the San Luen leader, is running for political office. No rushing about chopping people, no blue magazines to publish, Chicken finds that he is for all intents and purposes working for a politician. When he overhears his boss wish one of his opponents dead, Chicken takes him at his word and before long he is climbing the ranks of the gang and shacking up with his bosses wife, Siu-Yiu (Chingmy Yau).

Back in Hong Kong, Ho Nam seems on the verge of promotion to branch leader of Causeway Bay but is challenged by the nose-picking, booger-flicking Tai Fei (Anthony Wong). In his presence, Ho Nam's ear picking habit becomes more pronounced. It's ear-picker v. nose-picker, and no one knows who will come out on top. Hung Hing boss Chiang (Simon Yam) strikes upon a capital idea to determine who should be branch leader. He divides up the territory, each of them getting half. Whoever manages their half better wins the promotion. It's a turf war of sorts, and Ho Nam has trouble controlling the enthusiasm of his friends, which causes Tai Fei to lose face and up the stakes himself.

When the Hung Hing get an opportunity to share a stake in a new casino in Macao, the Taiwanese San Luen and the Hong Kongese Hung Hing clash for control of the profits, pitting gang against gang, brother against brother, climaxing in a dramatic showdown on the streets of Macao. Punishment is meted out to the guilty, the innocent are exhonorated, and the casinos are filled with shit covered grasshoppers.

The second installment in the Young & Dangerous series, Young and Dangerous 2 sets the tone for the series to follow. The Hung Hing boys expansion into Taiwan is just the beginning of what eventually becomes a global network. The most interesting part of the film is in Taiwan, where Chicken learns how Taiwanese triads operate. The film's conceit that most Taiwanese politicians are criminals is no exaggeration. By the Taiwanese government's own estimates, thirty-three percent of all elected officials have criminal links. And that figure includes ten percent of the National Assembly. None of them have ever been convicted.

Corruption is, by all accounts, utterly rampant throughout Taiwan. It stands to reason, after all, the very country was established by triads. Chiang Kai-shek first organized the triads against the Communists, forming units within the Kuomintang. Chiang Kai-Shek himself was a triad member. When the Communists took over, the triads fled in droves, to Taiwan, where they've had a comfy home ever since.

Today, there are four major criminal triads operating in Taiwan. The Tian Dao Man, a native Taiwanese triad boasting several hundred members. The Sung Lian is about the same size but comprised of second and third-generation mainland immigrants. Both of these groups keep themselves to petty crimes, extortion, and running small businesses. The Four Seas group is about 2,000 strong and is in to construction. The largest and most feared Taiwanese triad by far, however, is the United Bamboo gang, 10,000 strong, active in all aspects of Taiwanese business.

Taiwan is a culturally diverse island of immigrants. It was granted to Japan in 1895 under the Treaty of Shimonseki and was controlled by the Japanese for fifty years. So in addition to native influences, mainland influences, and the influence of triads, Japanese culture is added to the mix. In Young and Dangerous 2, Siu-Yiu (Chingmy Yau) wears kimono, and she and Chicken visit an onsen (hot spring). And forget choppers, here: the local triad boys have samurai swords. "They want to be like Yakusa," Chicken's Uncle Wah (Blackie Ko) explains, while they walk through the street wearing traditional Japanese wooden sandals, or geta.

In many ways, Young and Dangerous 2 is superior than the first film. It has an engaging and complicated script, and a lot of action. But the addition of some 'big name' stars really does nothing to help the film. Anthony Wong is just kind of silly as Tai-Fei, turning in one of his loose, off-the-cuff performances that pretty much makes clear no one was giving him any direction. Still, he does well enough to become a regular character in the rest of the series, eventually being featured in his own film, The Legendary Tai-Fei. Somewhat less successful is the performance by Chingmy Yau as the Taiwanese triad leader's ambitious wife. In fact I would have to say she is horrible and really out of her depth. Which is kind of sad to say, since it was not a particularly complicated character. It's like almost drowning in a wading pool. The regular cast, on the other hand, turn in fine performances as they refine their characters and get more comfortable in them. In the end, Young and Dangerous 2 falls just a little short of the manic energy of the first film, but nicely builds the characters and story and flows right in to arguably the best, certainly the most violent film of the series, Young and Dangerous 3.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on May 04, 2004.

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