Wong Jing returns to the world of Hong Kong crime movies with a follow-up to 2017’s Chasing the Dragon. However, the second film in the series — Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch — has little in common with its predecessor, save for a few clips and quotes at the beginning of the film.
Chasing the Dragon II is based on the exploits of Hong Kong criminal Cheung Tze-keung (renamed “Logan Long” in the film), who was famous for his lavish lifestyle funded by ransoms from kidnapping family members of local tycoons. Set in pre-handover 1996, Louis Koo plays Sky He, a police officer who goes undercover in Long’s (Tony Leung) gang to bring him to justice — while Long plans to kidnap Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho. The Hong Kong police collaborates throughout with mainland Chinese police, with the latter expressing their desire to take down a local criminal kingpin to “ensure stability and prosperity” for Hong Kong.
While on its own the film is no doubt a solid action flick, the way that it deviates from the original Chasing the Dragon makes it particularly relevant in a Hong Kong struggling with its relationship with the mainland amidst disappearances of booksellers across the border and a recent, controversial extradition bill.
A Paean to One Country, Two Systems
Chasing the Dragon II is not the first film to feature Cheung — 2016’s Trivisa also highlighted Cheung’s exploit, and was banned in the mainland for glorifying crime. Of course, the original Chasing the Dragon was also guilty of glorifying crime, as it cast Andy Lau’s drug-dealing crime boss character as a local hero. The film might have been banned in China if not for its saving grace — it pinned the blame for crime in Hong Kong squarely on the British colonial masters.
Chasing the Dragon II starts off on a similar note — a narrator remarks that “governance of Hong Kong became lax” ahead of the handover, as British overseers stopped caring as much about their soon to be lost colonial possession. However, the embrace of mainland China (ostensibly to capture box office tickets in the much larger market) doesn’t stop there.
Though Hong Kong police execute the operation to capture Logan Long, the mainland police force provides the intelligence to place He in Long’s inner circle — and it’s the mainland police who arrest Long at the end of the film. In a time when Hong Kongers are up in arms over an extradition bill that might see Hong Kong residents renditioned to the mainland, the fact that Long is ultimately executed by a mainland firing squad is sure to rile up localist spirits.
While this dynamic feels potentially controversial for Hong Kong independence advocates, mainland audiences will have much to praise. Sky He’s boss applauds the rule of law in mainland China, and the ease with which the characters move between mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau reminds us that despite having “two systems”, China is still “one country”.
Despite the clear political undertones, however, Chasing the Dragon II is far less politically charged than its predecessor. Most of the film is focused on Sky He’s undercover activities and Long’s flamboyant lifestyle — with the company of his spoiled little brother Farrell (Ye Xiangming) who screws up important operations, Long’s girlfriend and gang seductress “Bunny” (Sabrina Qiu), and right-hand-man “Doc” (Lam Ka-tung) who has a storied past (and grudge) with Long and Farrell. Between Bunny’s seductive antics, car chases, and a model of a Macau casino made with stacks of thousand-dollar bills, Chasing the Dragon II delivers straight-up entertainment.
However, Chasing the Dragon II eschews the “criminal as a hero” trope of the original film in the franchise. By making the British colonial masters the “bad guys”, and the gangsters the heroes, Chasing the Dragon flipped criminal drama on its head. In Chasing the Dragon II, it’s hard to find any sympathy for Logan Long — he’s ostentatious, selfish, and cold-blooded in his crimes. While I was rooting for Andy Lau’s criminal enterprise in the original Chasing the Dragon, in II I was squarely aligned with Louis Koo’s undercover police officer.
That’s actually a shame, because in real life Cheung Tze-keung mostly terrorized the wealthy and not the average Hong Kong resident — he was most famous for kidnapping the son of Hong Kong’s wealthiest man. Cheung and his on-screen depiction could easily have been portrayed as a Robin Hood character stealing from the rich — which, in a time of rising income inequality, could have garnered sympathy from the audience.
Beyond its political relevance, Chasing the Dragon II still packs a punch when it comes to the action genre. Whether undercover suspense, gun fights, or car chases are your thing, Chasing the Dragon II will deliver beyond expectations.
• • •
Chasing The Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch (Chinese: 追龍II：賊王 )—Hong Kong. Dialog in Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese. Directed by Wong Jing. First released June 6, 2019. Running time 1hr 43 min. Starring Tony Leung, Louis Koo, Simon Yam, Gordon Lam.