Reviews

Published: Saturday January 18, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday January 18, 2014 MYT 7:59:53 AM

The Four II

  • Starring : Deng Chao, Crystal Liu Yifei, Collin Chou, Ronald Cheng, Anthony Wong
  • Director : Gordon Chan and Janet Chun
  • Release Date : 16 Jan 2014

Review

One big teaser

A BIG-SCREEN adaptation of a superhero’s origin is hardly surprising these days. Oh wait, correction: a big-screen adaptation of a superhero’s origin is NOT surprising at all when the character in question has: (a) a nearly-indestructible adamantium skeleton/bulky mythical hammer/ spidersense; or (b) provides eye candy by wearing ridiculous form-fitting costumes.

It’s a basic formula.

Unfortunately, it’s also a template that eludes Gordon Chan and Janet Chun’s martial arts blockbuster The Four II.

Some might argue that it’s an unfair comparison, stacking up Western blockbusters against Asian efforts. Demographics and geography aside, it’s indeed a baffling idea when you choose to stake the genesis of a storyline on a character whose name is Emotionless.

I’m sure the name sounded fancier in the film’s native Mandarin. Regardless of phonetics, the truth is that Crystal Liu Yifei (The Forbidden Kingdom, The Assassins) just doesn’t have the acting prowess to emote Emotionless (yeaaaaaah, that was probably a super-ironic statement).

There’s a difference between between being detached and being impassive. And there were many moments while watching this movie when I desperately wished the actress would just settle for the latter.

If I sound bitter, it’s only because I went totally fanboy over the first movie (also jointly helmed by Chan and Chun). Granted, the plot of that on e was just as wafer-thin as its sequel’s.

But in the first movie, there were no pretensions that the production was anything more than it really wa s: a fluffy kung fu flick with loose elements of X- Men in its titular band – individuals with extraordinary abilities becoming par t of an elite organisation – and plenty of explosive martial arts sequences.

The sequel picks up where the first film left off. But since it does nothing to fill in viewers about events in the previous movie, it’s probably a public service to update readers on the franchise.

So here’s a quick recap: based on the bestselling novel by Perakborn writer Wen Ruian, the first movie basically revolves around four individuals with superpowers who work for the mysterious Divine Constabulary.

There’s shape-shifter Coldblood (Deng Chao), telekinetic Emotionless, force field-generating Iron Hands (Collin Chou), and Life Snatcher (Ronald Cheng), whose ability – apart from being the group’s funnyman – is his super
kicks a la Street Fighter’s Chun-Li.

There’s no denying that the characters in this lacklustre sequel are a colourful bunch. It’s just really frustrating that The Four II tries to lend some depth to the franchise by exploring the background of the
quartet’s blandest member. 

I mean, I would have forgiven the oversight if the movie had distracted me with just enough gravity-defying, sword-wielding, tree-hopping martial arts. Alas, the fight sequences are rather sparse for a kung fu offering.

But when the swords are drawn and battle is joined, it all makes for electrifying, edge-of-the-seat viewing thanks to action choreographer Ku Huen Chiu’s (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kung Fu Hustle) direction.

In this sequel, the investigation of a murder in the suburbs unexpectedly leads the four constables to stumble upon clues to the murder of Emotionless’ family 12 years ago.

While pursuing the case, the constables discover facts that force them to choose between old grudges and their newfound lives at the Divine Constabulary. After a series of bloody battles, they soon discover that a bigger storm is brewing on the horizon.

Jeng jeng jeng, and what’s this ominous storm we’re talking about? That, dear readers, will be unveiled in the upcoming third movie. That’s right, it turns out this sequel is nothing mo re than just a huge teaser for the next film.

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