Here’s the thing about Herman Yau’s The White Storm 2: Drug Lords <掃毒2: 天地對決>: it has nothing to do with Benny Chan’s first movie released back in 2013, despite carrying the same White Storm <掃毒> title and features Louis Koo again as one of the lead actors.
Even Louis Koo’s character is totally different, playing a drug dealer named Fung Chun-Kwok in Herman Yau’s version rather than reprising his undercover role as Chow in the 2013 original. Suffice to say, The White Storm 2: Drug Lords <掃毒2: 天地對決> is pretty much a sequel-in-name-only that bears no direct connection other than telling the similar themes about wars on drugs.
So, instead of telling a story about three childhood friends working in the same Narcotics Bureau division, The White Storm 2: Drug Lords <掃毒2: 天地對決> follows former triad member-turned-philanthropist and financial tycoon Yu Shun-Tin (Andy Lau), who offers a HK$100 million worth of bounty to get rid of the city’s number-one drug dealer Fung Chun-Kwok a.k.a. Dei Zong (Louis Koo). Both of them used to be sworn brothers who work under the Ching Hing triad gang led by Yu Nam (Kent Cheng). Complicating the matters are Lam Ching-Fung (Michael Miu), the chief superintendent of the Narcotics Bureau who is responsible for protecting Fung Chun-Kwok.
For years, it has become a standard practice for mainstream Hong Kong cinema in using brand recognition to sell a thematically-similar movie with a different storyline. This includes movies like the Overheard <竊聽風雲> trilogy and the two Chasing The Dragon <追龍> movies. The White Storm 2: Drug Lords <掃毒2: 天地對決> follows the same pattern, even though co-writer and director Herman Yau could have gone the direct sequel route to focus on the aftermath of a botched case involving Lo Hoi-Pang’s Eight-Faced Buddha and the psychological consequences that affected Louis Koo’s character as Chow.
Well, that obviously didn’t happen since it’s all wishful thinking anyway. Putting in charge of this movie is Herman Yau — the name that doesn’t exactly inspire immediate confidence, given his largely erratic filmography as a director. His rare big-budget action movie in Shock Wave <拆彈專家> two years ago may have been a box-office hit, even though I personally found the movie a missed opportunity that failed to capitalise on the rare subject matter about the profession of an HK bomb disposal officer. Then, there’s The Leakers <洩密者們> — another Yau’s big-budget project which was a far successful effort, at least in terms of its storytelling and filmmaking qualities.
Co-written by Herman Yau alongside his regular collaborators Erica Li and Eric Lee, The White Storm 2: Drug Lords <掃毒2: 天地對決> treads familiar ground that covers brotherhood, loyalty and betrayal. But if you are expecting the same storytelling beat seen in Benny Chan’s 2013 original, you will be likely disappointed by Yau’s overall choppy direction.
Among the biggest problems here is the scant running time at just 100 minutes. It’s like as if Yau is specifically making a crime drama for those with short attention spans. The aforementioned themes may have been featured in this movie but they are all sadly told in the utmost superficial manner.
Herman Yau even shows little interest in establishing the three main characters between Andy Lau’s Yu Shun-Tin, Louis Koo’s Dei Zong and Michael Miu’s Lam Ching-Fung. For instance, Yu Shun-Tin and Dei Zong are supposed to be sworn brothers who knew each other for 20 years. Other than finding out about them over some brief verbal exchanges, Yau could have done better by investing more time and effort to build up their characters. Which is why the transition of watching Yu Shun-Tin and Dei Zong turning from friends to enemies feel largely muted and emotionally hollow. This also begs a question: What’s with all the rushed storytelling anyway?
Despite enlisting an all-star cast and familiar faces, only Louis Koo stands out the most with his fun antagonist role as Dei Zong. Andy Lau relies heavily on his usual charisma to offset most of his underwritten character as Yu Shun-Tin, while Michael Miu basically rehashes his same old righteous cop role often seen in numerous TVB law enforcement dramas.
The action is thankfully a lifesaver here, with all the violent shootouts and of course, a memorable major set-piece involving a car chase that takes place inside the crowded MTR station.