Jazz Boon returns to the director’s chair to helm the blistering Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy, an in name only sequel to the popular television series and movie.
The original series was introduced in 2014 and focused on the lives of undercover police officers and the pressures leading a double life has on them. As well as the usual risks of the job they have to deal with a mole within the ranks of the police force. Working alongside the criminals, this mole could disclose any one of their secret identities whenever they wish.
The original series ran for 31 episodes, gaining some of the highest ratings of the year. By the end of its run it was the most watched TVB drama of the year. Along with the high ratings, the show was also critically acclaimed. Considering this, it is not a surprise that it was felt worthy for a big screen spin off.
Although fans were understandably upset that the film was missing the majority of the series’ cast, Line Walker: The Movie (2016) turned out to be an excitingly put together actioner that was one of the better action movies of the year.
For its sequel, director Jazz Boon brings back his three leading man, Louis Koo, Nick Cheng and Francis Ng. This time round he places them in a completely new story, with the three playing different roles from the previous entry. Other than the cast and some thematic similarities, Line Walker 2 has no other links to the first movie or the television show that spawned it.
This of course is not unusual for Hong Kong movies, with many of their series through the years only being linked thematically with such classics as the Long Arm of the Law series and the more recent White Storm series being prime examples of this.
Unlike the first film, which focused primarily on undercover cops, Line Walker 2 is a larger scaled globe-trotting adventure that takes in Myanmar and Spain on the way to its action packed conclusion.
Harkening back to the heroic bloodshed films of the 1980’s but filtered through the stylish sheen of modern-day blockbusters, Line Walker 2 surpasses the first film in nearly all regards. Featuring the popular themes of loyalty, brotherhood and loyalty so prevalent in the heroic bloodshed genre, Line Walker 2 opens in a Philippines orphanage in the mid 1980’s.
We are introduced to two childhood friends, who playfully compete against each other in Rubik’s cube’s competitions, an aspect that is revisited earlier in the film. One day while they are out playing, terrorists attempt to kidnap them. While they are able to kidnap one, the other escapes.
The film then fast forwards to present day Hong Kong, where a man drives his car into a crowd of pedestrians. It turns out that the driver of the car was involved with a terrorist kidnapping ring, the same one we were introduced to earlier. He was being tracked by hacker Yiu Ho-yee (Jiang Peiyao), who is now marked for assassination by the terrorists. Luckily for her she is rescued by inspector Ching To (Nick Cheung) and his boss, superintendent Yip Kwok-fan (Francis Ng), who bring her in for questioning.
During questioning, police “security wing” officer Cheung Chun-yin (Louis Koo) becomes involved in the case, teaming up with Ching To and travelling to Myanmar to recover a hard drive with files on the terrorist group. At the same time, it becomes evident that there is a mole within the force secretly working against them. From here, loyalties are tested and characters true motives begin to become clear. While it becomes apparent that Ching To and Cheung Chun-yin are now the adult children we were originally introduced to, it is not made clear at first which is which.
Director Jazz Boon seriously ups his game from his already impressive work on the first movie. While you could argue that he favours action over plot, when the action is this enjoyable it is not really a problem.
Screenwriter Cat Kwan also returns from the first movie. It is safe to say that his script will never win him any awards, he fills it with enough incident to keep in interesting. While the plot initially starts off with a number of twists and turns, with Kwan having fun making the audience guess which of our two leads was the one who was kidnapped.
However, once the twists are revealed, the plot settles down to a straight forward action movie, with the plot simply being there to propel our characters to the next action scene. In line with the plot, the characters are also somewhat thinly drawn once their motives are revealed, but the talented cast imbue the characters with enough personality to overcome this minor drawback.
Like Boon and Kwan, Action Director Chin Ka-Lok additionally returns from the first movie. Unsurprisingly Ka-Lok does tremendous work, with Line Walker 2 showing him at the top of his game.
A shootout amongst the busy streets of Yangon, Myanmar is a real standout. Featuring Cheng, Koo and a group of Burmese cops taking on terrorists amongst the traffic filled street, it incorporates a chase scene, shootout and multiple explosions. It reminded me of the shoot out in Michael Mann’s Heat (1995) mixed with the best of Hong Kong cinema.
Ka-Lok is also a master at vehicular action, something he has shown in the likes of Motorway (2012), Cold War 2 (2016) and his own recent directorial effort Golden Job (2018). Line Walker 2 has its own memorable car chase, taking place during Spain’s encierro bull running festival. The only drawback during the action is the use of some poor CGI, but it does not detract from the overall quality of the action.
Nick Cheung and Louis Koo have become two of the best and most popular actors currently working in Hong Kong cinema, and as expected are great in the leading roles.
This marks Koo’s fifth film of the year, and his third sequel, with Chasing the Dragon 2 (2019) and White Storm 2: The Drug Lords (2019) coming earlier in the year. Of the two leads, Koo gets the better of the two roles, with his character being seriously conflicted. Koo takes part in the majority of the action scenes, and while he may be stunt doubled on occasion, he still manages to impress.
Nick Cheung gets the more-straight forward role of the two, but is no less commanding. He is in full on action hero mode, throwing himself into the multiple bone crunching fight scenes and shootouts. It is hard to think that he originally built his career on Wong Jing comedies when you consider how good a dramatic actor he has become.
Like Koo, Cheung has been quite busy this year, with Integrity (2019) and Renny Harlin’s Bodies at Rest (2019) already being released. Still to come is thriller Guilt by Design (2019) and the long in development Warriors of Future, where he will once again share the screen with Louis Koo.
As great as the two leads are, the real acting honours go to Francis Ng, who gives a commanding and emotional performance. I may be biased, as he has for a long time been one of my favourite actors, but Ng has to be commended for doing so much with considerably shorter screen time than his co-stars.
In regards to female roles, they are quite limited. Jiang Peiyao does well enough as computer hacker Yiu Ho-yee, but does not get a great deal to do in comparison to her male co-stars.
Line Walker 2 should satisfy everyone looking for a fast-paced thriller filled with exciting action scenes. Not only is it one of the better Hong Kong action movies of the year, it will also bring back memories of the great Hong Kong movies of yesteryear.
Written by Guest Reviewer: Darren Murray (Facebook Profile)