"Rumble in Mongkok Tonight!" could be the title of this movie, which has nothing to do with part 1 except for the same director (Cha Chuen Yee) and star (Francis Ng), and a similar satirical tone, which sends up the serious triad movies of the late 1990s. This movie illustrates many things that HK movies do so well: it combines comedy and satire with surprisingly touching drama and romance. It changes tone quickly, the plot takes unexpected twists and turns, and the characters range from colorful to outrageous and are all well-drawn.
A ticking clock counts down the seconds until the big brawl scheduled between two gangs, and records that day's activities by three couples connected with it: Dagger, a pimp (Francis Ng), and his one girl JJ (Ivy Leung); Dinosaur, a triad wannabe (Roy Cheung), and his loyal girlfriend Deda (Ada Choi); and anti-triad cop Dummy (Cheung Tat-Ming) and his pregnant wife Crystal (Angie Cheung). The characters are all connected and their stories intersect but only two of them meet in person.
While JJ services the one client Dagger has procured for her, we meet two other hilarious characters, Keung, the proprietor of the brothel/hotel, who is also a woman living as a man; and Yan, a man smitten with Dagger and who ends up unfortunately dressed as a woman during the big brawl.
And cop Dummy has to deal with his pregnant wife, who wants a divorce, and his superiors, who task him with finding out exactly who's brawling, where and when. This is the quietest and slowest of the three stories: when Dagger's onscreen, he's talking nonstop; with Dinosaur, we hear clanging machetes constantly, but with Dummy and Crystal there's quiet talk and silence. If the film's structure has a weak point, it's that this story is resolved fairly soon and these characters are absent from the last third of the film, whereas the other two stories interconnect almost to the very end.
Oh, and how does the rumble start? Well, it almost doesn't ... until Dagger inadvertently provokes it and then expends all his energy trying to escape it. There are no heroes in this movie. And though Dinosaur does indeed prove himself to be the God of Sword, the movie says -- so what? What does it get him? (You'll have to watch the movie to see.)
When Dagger, again inadvertently, ends up designated to assassinate his gang's rival (while the rest of the gang goes off to play mahjongg), he tries to call his parents to say goodbye ... but he can't remember their number. Ng was unexpectedly touching in this scene, in which he reveals the pathetic lost soul beneath Dagger's swagger.
Roy Cheung - does he ever give a bad performance? Macho leader of his sorry little gang, dedicated boyfriend of Deda. He and Ada Choi have a sweet relationship that contrasts sharply with the bloody mess they end up in. In the behind-the-scenes piece at the end of the VCD, we see the real Roy and realize he's much too old for this role, but onscreen, with his hair in his face and his slumped posture, he pulls it off.
Ivy Leung portrays JJ, the Invincible Chick, as a natural for the down-and-dirty business of hooking. Check out the priceless shocked look on Dagger's face as JJ elatedly shouts, "I can break the record!" of screwing 60 guys in one day, because so many men are milling around waiting for the rumble to start.
Angie Cheung's Crystal at first seemed shrewish to me, but when she has her say I came around to her, as Dummy does. And she does indeed look very cute with her big stomach, overalls and sideways baseball cap
I had zero expectations for this movie, but it surprised and delighted me at every turn. Funny, rapid-fire dialogue, excellent performances, interesting camerawork, great music ... like Dagger, Once Upon a Time in Triad Society 2 uses its brain.
My rating for this film: 9.0