I once read an article about the prevalence of male intimacy and bonding in John Woo’s Hong Kong work, and now it’s all I can see when I watch these films. There’s just a real tactility and tenderness underpinning the interactions between all four male protagonists of A Better Tomorrow II, with Chow Yun-Fat’s character going so far as to put a glass of milk to the mouth Dean Shek’s character, trying to keep him sustained as he struggles in a catatonic state (although he does refuse to go the extra-step of feeding him).
This aspect of A Better Tomorrow II is probably more interesting than the actual plot, which is a kind of generic money-laundering, double-crossing bad guy type deal. Really though, that’s not why anyone is watching this film, we’re all here for the gunplay, which is exquisite. And even if the plot itself is a little dull, the relationships between the various protagonists is enough to get us between action scenes.
Honestly though, I could watch Chow Yun-fat shoot people in slow motion for hours on end, it’s wonderful (the apartment building shoot-out is probably the highlight.)
Also, I really miss 80s style, gooey, messy, explode-y squibs. Just magic.