The Young and Dangerous Series and the people behind it: Young and Dangerous 2 - 1996
Coming only two months after the release of the first film in the series, Young and Dangerous 2 actually improves on its predecessor. Young and Dangerous 2 focus more on the complexities of gang life, and is decidedly less comic in tone than the first entry in the series.
Initially the main focus of the film is Chicken (Jordan Chan), and his adventures in Taiwan. Viewers will remember that in the first movie, Chicken had to flee Hong Kong and ended up in Taiwan. By the climax of the film he had returned as a gang boss in his own right, and backed up his friend Chan Ho Nam (Ekin Cheng) in the films finale. The first 40 minutes or so of Young and Dangerous 2 end up being a prequel, relaying what Chicken got up to the year previous.
Whilst in Taiwan, Chicken ended up working for the San Luen Triad, who at the time were trying to make inroads towards the local political scene. Working for boss Lui Jan (Kelly Lai), Chicken ends up falling for his boss’s mistress, played by a better than usual Chingamy Yau, before he realises what she is really up to. He also befriends fellow Triad member Blackie, played by Blackie Ko. I know, I also can’t believe the imagination shown in some Hong Kong films when naming characters. How long did it take Manfred Wong when he was writing to say “hell with it, let’s just use his real name”.
Back home, Chan Ho Nam has to deal with local Triad member and dirty nose picker Tai Fei, who has eyes on Nam’s territory and allies himself with the Taiwanese Triads, who are also trying to take over Hung Hing. This of course puts Chicken in a quandary, as he is now conflicted by what side he truly should be loyal to.
One main drawback of the film is that it ends somewhat anti-climatically, but with the knowledge that there is a sequel to follow it up this becomes less of an issue.
Andrew Lau is once again in the director’s chair, once again giving the film a gritty look with a good deal of the film being shot with hand held camera’s, although his shooting style has slightly died down from the first film. Although made with roughly the same budget as the original, the sequel looks more expensive due to a good portion of the film taking place in Taiwan and Macau, adding a bit of a different flavour to proceedings.
The majority of the main cast from the first film return, with a few notable exceptions, such as Francis Ng as Ugly Kwan who came to a bad end during the finale of the first film. There are also a number of welcome additions to the cast, some of whom would recur throughout the remainder of the series.
Ekin Cheng is once again back as Chan Ho Nam and feels more comfortable in the role than his first time round. Unfortunately Cheng feels more like a supporting player in his own movie due to the main focus being on Jordan Chan this time.
The producers of the first film must have realised themselves how popular a character Chicken was in the first entry, with him noticeably stealing a lot of the limelight from his co-stars. Jordan Chan was rewarded by being given much more screen time, with the main focus of the plot being based around his character. Thankfully Chan even gets to keep his natural hair colour this time round.
The rest of the gang, made up of Jerry Lamb, Jason Chu and Michael Tse return, but like the first film don’t get much to do. Gigi Lai, who also returns as Ho Nam’s stuttering girlfriend Smartie, equally gets very little screen time, spending a large part of the film in a coma. Simon Yam does his obligatory guest appearance as does Spencer Lam who makes a welcome appearance as Father Lam, a role he also portrayed in the first film.
In addition to the original cast, Young and Dangerous 2 was the first of the series to feature Hong Kong legend Anthony Wong, playing Tai Fei. Although Wong has limited screen time, he is his usual excellent self, making the character initially sleazy and then performing a complete turn around and having the audience rooting for him. Like Francis Ng in the first film, Wong proved to be so popular in the role he would end up playing the character in his own spin off, The legendary Tai Fei (1999).
Any fan of Hong Kong cinema shouldn’t need an introduction to Anthony Wong. Starting his acting career off in television, his first credited movie role was in the Shaw Brothers produced drama My Name Ain’t Suzie (1985), alongside Pat Ha. He would make another few films throughout the remainder of the 1980’s such as News Attack (1989), which co starred Andy Lau, Eric Tsang and also featured his Young and Dangerous 2 co-star Blackie Ko.
Moving into the 1990’s, Wong’s roles become more prolific, working with Chow Yun Fat, with him on main villain duties for John Woo’s Hard Boiled (1992) and also co-starring with him again in Ringo Lam’s Full Contact (1992). 1992 would prove to be a busy year for the two of them as they would also manage to fit in Now You See Love, Now You Don’t (1992), a romantic comedy starring both Yun Fat and Wong along with Carol Cheng, Carina Lau and Teresa Mo.
The year later he would star in one of his most prolific films, the shocking The Untold Story (1993), co starring Danny Lee and directed by Herman Yau. This would be the second collaboration between Yau and Wong, with Wong playing a ridiculous villain in the silly but fun Don’t Fool Me (1991) alongside Hong Kong superstars Andy Lau and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.
Not for the squeamish, The Untold Story still is a worthwhile experience and shouldn’t be missed. Wong would continue his association with Herman Yau throughout the years, following up The Untold Story with Taxi Hunter (1993), a less extreme but no less enjoyable thriller co starring the excellent Yu Rong-Guang.
He would reteam again with Yau the following year on their hilarious send up of cop thrillers Cop Image (1994). The film proved to be a nice change of pace for Wong, and also gave him a chance to play the hero for a change. They would then go on to work on Ebola Syndrome (1996), a Category 3 exploitation film that tries to outdo The Untold Story in extremities, which it almost does. There are multiple scenes of sex and debauchery and many violent scenes. One memorable scene has Wong killing a bunch of people with a pair of scissors.
Wong also showed up in Fascination Amour (1999), an Andy Lau starring romantic comedy. Wong has a good time in a smaller role than usual, playing one of the members of Lau’s group. Considering the pedigree behind the film, Fascination Amour really should have been better, but it is still adequate time filler. Herman Yau would also work as cinematographer on Tsui Hark’s Time and Tide (2000), an excellent over the top action movie, where Wong stars as the boss of the films leads, Nicholas Tse.
It would be a number of years before Wong would be directed by Yau. They would eventually work together in On the edge (2007), an undercover cop drama headlined by a strong lead performance from Nick Cheung and an excellent supporting role for Francis Ng. Although a decent film, On the Edge turns out to be anti-climactic, and is nowhere near the sum of its parts.
On the Edge would be followed up the much superior Turning Point (2009), a sequel to the TVB series E.U. (2009) which I have spoken about previously. It also saw him sharing the screen once again with one of his Young and Dangerous 2 co-stars Michael Tse.
Wong and Yau would reunite two years later on one of Yau’s better films of the last decade, The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake (2011), a martial arts action movie loosely based on the life or revolutionary Qui Jin. The film has excellent action scenes throughout and a surprisingly good lead performance from Huang Yi. Anthony Wong takes a back seat to the action in the film, with his character being a court official, who has to try Qiu Jin even though he admires her. For a change, Wong underplays the part, giving his character some needed gravitas.
Their next film would be another martial arts movie, the superior Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013). Due to popularity of the Donnie Yen Ip Man films, a number of copycat films showed up. As I have mentioned previously, Ip Man: The Final Fight proves to be not just one of the best copycat films but one of the best films featuring the Ip Man character.
Obviously unable to match the physicality of Donnie Yen, Wong still dedicated a lot of time being trained in Wing Chun to at least look the part in the film. Slightly less action packed than the more commercial Ip Man (2008) and its sequels, what action there is, is excellently choreographed. One of the best scenes is a sparring match between Wong and Eric Tsang and the well realised finale where Wong fights lead bad guy Xiong Xin-Xin in the surrounds of the famous Walled City during a typhoon.
Yau and Wong have most recently worked together on the Triad comedy The Mobfathers (2016), with him in a supporting role. Unfortunately the lead character, ably played by Chapman To, never feels as if he should be the lead.
During all this, Wong also worked with legendary director Johnnie To on a number of occasions. He would start their association off by appearing in Casino Raiders 2 (1991), a slightly superior sequel starring Andy Lau and Alan Tam. Lucky Encounter (1992) would soon follow an extremely zany comedy about the theft of a Garfield toy. With decent lead performances from Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Kent Cheng, an added bonus being the extreme overacting from Wong as the films crazed villain.
Wong would go on to appear in the excellent The heroic Trio (1993) and it’s even better sequel Executioners (1993), although to be honest anyone could have played his part in the first movie as his character Kau spends the majority of his screen time with a mask over his head. He does get a slightly better part in the sequel by playing both Kau and the films main villain Mr Kim. Luckily, his parts in Johnnie To productions would only get better.
To would go on to direct the smash hit fantasy comedy, Mad Monk (1993), starring Stephen Chow and Maggie Cheung. Wong plays a beggar, but really is only there to play second fiddle to comedy king Sing Chi. The Mad Monk is another enjoyable Hong Kong comedy, but should be viewed more in comparison with Chow Sing Chi films more than other Johnnie To movies. One interesting fact is that after the production, Johnnie To vowed to never work with Chow Sing Chi again.
Wong would fare better, playing a mad biker in Benny Chan’s Moment of Romance 2 (1993), which Johnnie To produced. A decent enough time waster, it fails when compared to the original film, with Wong definitely being the main reason for watching, although Aaron Kwok is decent as the Andy Lau stand in.
A number of years later he would be part of the cast for the Mission (1999), possibly one of Johnnie To’s highest regarded films. Once again sharing the screen with Francis Ng and Simon Yam, The Mission is a different kind of Hong Kong thriller, with the action unlike other films of the era. They would once again work together on the film’s semi sequel Exiled (2006).
A few years later, he would assist French actor Johnny Halliday in the similar Vengeance (2009), also featuring performances by To regulars Simon Yam and Lam Suet. The main problem with Vengeance is that the supporting players act rings round the films lead. Originally screen legend Alain Delon was to be the star of the film but ended up leaving the film to be replaced by singer Halliday, who isn’t exactly the most compelling of actors.
More recently, Wong played the lead in Law Wing-Cheong’s Punished (2011), playing a bereaved father. Produced by Johnnie To, Punished features excellent performances from Wong and his co-star Richie Yen as his loyal right hand man. There are some issues with the plot of the film, with it being shown in a non linear fashion which goes in some way of covering up its issue’s. Although not as stylish as typical Johnnie To films, there is still a lot to recommend Punished and fans of To shouldn’t be disappointed.
He followed Punished up with the excellent crime thriller Motorway from director Soi Cheang Pou-Soi which Johnnie To once again produced. Featuring a number of excellent chase scenes, and shot in a pared down style, with the film playing like a Hong Kong version of Drive (2011).
He has also worked for both Andrew Lau and Wong Jing on many occasions outside of the Young and Dangerous series. A good number of films Wong has made throughout the years have been produced by Wong Jing, most notably the entertaining Category 3 exploitation movie The Underground Banker (1993). He has also starred in some stinkers for Wong Jing as well such as The Haunted Mansion (1998) and Bullet and Brain (2007) films I have mentioned in other articles a number of times. As if to make up for these, Wong Jing did cast him in Colour of the Truth (2003), a better than usual crime thriller which Jing directed.
For Andrew Lau he made smaller appearances in Storm Riders and A Man Called Hero before going on to play one of the best roles Lau had given him in Infernal Affairs (2002). Although he doesn’t make it to the end, he ended up appearing in the films two sequels.
Other standouts during these times were Gordon Chan and Dante Lam’s Beast Cops (1998), which features one of Wong’s best leading roles, and actually uses the limited abilities of his co-star Michael Wong to the films advantage. He would work again with Dante Lam on the brilliant Triad comedy Jiang Hu – The Triad Zone (2000). Featuring an excellent lead performance from Tony Leung Ka-Fai , with equally good support from Sandra Ng and Wong himself. Jiang Hi – The Triad Zone deserves to be better known outside of Hong Kong.
He would also work with Gordon Chan again on the Lunar New Year comedy Cat and Mouse (2003), which although features lead roles for Andy Lau and Cecelia Cheung, turned out to be a disappointing affair. In matter of fact the only films Wong made with Gordon Chan that are worth checking out are the afore mentioned Beast Cops and A1: Headline (2004). The least said about The Four (2012) and its even poorer sequels the better.
The other main addition to the cast was Wong Jing’s obsession at the time, Chingamy Yau. As mentioned before, she is better than usual in a villainous role, but is still mainly in the film more for her looks than any acting ability. At least it is one of her better collaborations with Wong Jing and Andrew Lau and doesn’t feature naked or rape in the title which is a bonus.
Chingamy Yau got her start in the film business after she was a competitor in the Miss Hong Kong Beauty Pageant. She got her first break when Wong Jing cast her in the comedy Crazy Companies (1988), which spawned a sequel within the same year. The majority of films throughout Yau’s career have some level of involvement from Wong Jing, with just a few notable exceptions, such as Clarence Fok’s They Came to Rob Hong Kong (1989). She would work again with director Clarence Fok on one of her most well known films, Naked Killer (1992), which this time was produced by Wong Jing.
She would spend the remainder of the 1980’s appearing in a number of sub-par productions, such as How to Pick Girls Up (1988), Ghost Busting (1989) and The Romancing Star (1989). All these films also come with Wong Jing’s name attached in some form.
Moving in to the 1990’s, she was still employed by Jing, but the roles began to get better. One of her better roles would be in Lee Rock (1991) and its sequel. Playing the love interest of Andy Lau’s character, Yau gets a chance to at least try and stretch her acting muscles. She would work again with Lau in the same years Tricky Brains (1991), an early Chow Sing Chi comedy, and one of the better Wong Jing directed films of the era. Casino Tycoon 1 & 2 (1992), would soon follow, playing a similar role that she played in Lee Rock, and also starring Andy Lau in the lead.
After working on the already mentioned Naked Killer, she would once again act alongside Chow Sing Chi in Royal Tramp 1 & 2 (1992), although was once again hired for her looks than any acting ability. She especially pales in comparison when put next to her other female co-stars in the films, Cheung Man and Brigitte Lin. Once again Wong Jing was at the helm of these films.
In 1993 alone she worked on 9 films, with City Hunter (1993), Kung Fu Cult Master (1993) and Boys are Easy (1993) being the best of the bunch. 8 out of the 9 films she made this year had Wong Jing either directing or producing. Only the crime thriller Psycho Killer (1993) didn’t have his name attached in any capacity.
Throughout the remainder of the 1990’s Yau would star in films of various quality. She appeared in a supporting role in God of Gamblers Return (1994). She would also act in the poorest entry in the God of Gamblers saga, The Saint of Gamblers (1995), which is enlivened slightly by a small role for Donnie Yen. Yau would work with Donnie Yen the following year in the Seven (1995) rip off Satan Returns (1996), which may have the rain soaked streets of Seven, but director Lam Wai-Lun is certainly no David Fincher.
Her last two main roles of the decade were in the Chow Sing Chi comedy Lawyer, Lawyer (1997), with her in typical flower vase mode and then on to Hold You Tight (1998). Hold You Tight would turn out to be Yau’s best acting role by far. The film ended up garnering Yau a best actress nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards, her third nomination in this category after Naked Killer and I’m Your Birthday Cake (1996).
Unfortunately Hold You Tight would also prove to be her last proper film, excluding the small cameo at the start of Raped by an Angel 4: The Rapists Union (1999), as she would end up retiring from the business in 1999 after her marriage Hong Kong fashion designer Shen Jiawei.
Of the other main additions, there is a small role for legendary stuntman and action director Blackie Ko. As an actor Ko has never exactly been the best, but he has a likeable quality and is usually a welcome appearance in films, even if playing the bad guy. His screen time is relatively short but still gets a chance to shine, with his scenes with Jordan Chan being especially fun.
Ko started out his film career at the start of the 1970’s, mainly taking on extra work and the odd stunt man job. He can be spotted in Jimmy Wang Yu’s One Armed Boxer (1972) amongst many others throughout the 1970’s. During his film career he would act in more than 70 films, work as a stuntman, be an action director on over 30 films and also a direct 8 films.
His best work as an action director didn’t really start until the 1980’s, with his 1970’s output mainly being forgettable martial arts movies like Shaolin Ex Monk (1978), which Ko also starred in and The Boxer’s Adventure (1979), which also once again starred Ko.
Some of his best work would feature in John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986), which he worked with the excellent Tung Wai. He would go on to work on Runaway Blues (1989), and Andy Lau starring Triad drama, which has some of the most impressive stunt work to appear in an action film, with motorbike chases, car crashes and one extremely impressive full body burn. It is a miracle that no one died making the film.
Come the 1980’s he would appear in more well known films such as The Owl and Dumbo (1984), Heart of the Dragon (1985) and Legacy of Rage (1986), the last of which he also carried out the car stunts for. The majority of the roles that Ko appeared in during this time really only amount to glorified cameo’s, a lot of the time showing up to carry out some elaborate stunt or fight the main hero of the film.
As well as appearing in Young and Dangerous 2 & 3, Ko would also star in a number of other Wong Jing productions Throughout the 1990’s, including small roles in God of Gamblers 2 (1990), God of Gamblers Return and My Fathers is a Hero (1995)amongst others. As well as acting in Wong Jing productions he also carried out action directing duties on The Last Blood (1991).
He would also work again with Andrew Lau on his S.D.U. drama Best of the Best (1996) and a few years later on The Legend of Speed (1999). He would also return to the Young and Dangerous series with the final entry to feature the original cast, Born to Be King (2000).
Although mainly acting in small roles, he would appear in some larger roles in the 1990’s. Ko would act alongside Josephine Siao and Zhao Wen-Zhou (Chiu Man-Cheuk) in Mahjong Dragon (1997), a somewhat underrated martial arts drama. The film is somewhat noteworthy as being the last film to feature Josephine Siao, who retired shortly after due to the complication she was having from her hearing (Siao had lost the hearing from her right ear as a child, and had became nearly deaf in her left ear come the 1990’s).
One of his better roles was in Herman Yau’s The Masked Prosecutor (1999), which had him once again co-starring alongside Jordan Chan. Getting a chance to play a lead role; Ko doesn’t disappoint and gives the role his all.
Moving in to the 2000’s, he would appear in films less but can still be seen in a number of films, with Black Mask 2 (2002) probably being the highest profile release of this period.
During his career he also directed a number of fun films. The best of these being Curry and Pepper (1990), a Hong Kong take on the buddy cop genre starring Jacky Cheung and Chow Sing Chi. Although primarily a comedy, the film features some excellent action scenes. He would also direct The Days of Being Dumb (1992), a hilarious spoof on Wong Kar Wai’s Days of Being Wild (1990), which still has some great action involved towards the finale.
Sadly Ko died in 2003 at the mere age of 50 after suffering a severe heart attack.
Manfred Wong takes over as sole producer, with Wong Jing taking a back seat, although the film is still made through BoB & Partners Co Ltd, the company he set up along with Manfred Wong and Andrew Lau.
As well as producing, Manfred Wong once again carries out scripting duties along with Sharon Hui. Hui herself has worked as scriptwriter on some notable films, Such as the Tsui Hark film The Lovers (1994) and Love in the Time of Twilight (1995). She would work again with Hark on his production of Once Upon a Time in China and America (1997), directed by Sammo Hung. It’s unclear how much of the script that Hui actually worked on, as the overall feel of the film and dialogue is very similar to the previous film in the series.
Another area of interest is that celebrated director Soi Cheang Poi-Soi worked on Young and Dangerous 2 as an assistant director. He had worked on the original film as a script supervisor. He would work as an assistant director on a number of Wong Jing productions throughout the 1990’s such as Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star (1996), A Chinese Torture Chamber Story 2 (1998) and a return to the Young and Dangerous series with Young and Dangerous 5 (1998).
Cheang has built up quite an impressive resume as a director in his own right. Amongst his better work as director are classics like Dog Bite Dog (2006), Accident (2009) and the already mentioned Motorway. Lately he has moved into more commercial filmmaking, directing the fantasy The Monkey King (2014) and its sequel. Between the two films he managed to fit in the excellent SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (2015), and he is rumoured to be also working on a third film in the series.
There were another three assistant director who worked on Young and Dangerous 2, Chung Bing-Wong, Dave Lam and Raymond Yip. Of the three, Raymond Yip has fared the best. Like Soi Cheung, Yip has gone on to forge a decent career as a film director, with him most recently directing Phantom of the Theatre (2016).
There is slightly more action in Young and Dangerous 2 than the original, with the majority being regulated to the hack and slash variety of action. Dion Lam once again carries out the action direction, and although not exactly his best work, there is enough here to satisfy fans of the genre and the main series.