This is a film by any other name would have smelled as sweet. Written and directed by Alan Mak and Felix Chong, Overheard 2 may seem like a sequel or follow up film of sorts given the number in its title, but except for a storyline that consists of eavesdropping devices, and the bringing back of lead actors in Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo and Daniel Wu, this film deals with completely different characters and a premise that doesn't fit anywhere into the original film. It could have been called some other name and would work just as well, though I am curious if the filmmakers will make yet another film and package them all together in a nifty box set of crime thrillers that deal with the espionage of information.
That said, one cannot help but to compare elements from this film with its predecessor, no matter how different they can be. For starters, we rarely, if ever, get all three leading men sharing the same frame, let alone the same scene, together, unlike the first film where everyone was on the same side of the law, and employing techniques to solve cases together as a team. Whatever chemistry that worked back then got broken up here, with each character aligned to different loyalties such that they get pit against one another; gone is the teamwork and in comes individual objectives and intent with Lau Ching Wan playing Manson, a hot shot but shady broker, and Louis Koo as Jack Ho, a cop with the Security Bureau with that unwavering moral sense of justice.
It's an elaborate plot of revenge being exacted out by the mysterious lone ranger Joe (Daniel Wu), who begins the film already having planted plenty of surveillance devices in the offices, vehicles and phones of a group of high profile businessmen and their stockbroker, collectively being known as the enigmatic Landlord Club, responsible for how the Hang Seng stock index performs, influential and lined with deep pockets to manipulate markets without being caught. Those not familiar with trading terms or how the stock market works shouldn't see this as reason enough not to watch the film, as the transactions boiled down to being very simple buy and sell ones complete with the obvious insider trading, where money gets multiplied obscenely thanks to unscrupulous transactions following the mantra of doing, but not getting caught, complete with a protocol on who takes the fall if so.
But Alan Mak and Felix Chong's story got bogged down unnecessarily by the personal demons of Manson and Jack no thanks to the presence of their wives, bit characters played by Huang Yi and Michelle Ye respectively to provide some balance to the testosterone on screen. Huang Yi's lawyer and wife character to Manson may have had the most potential between the two, but unfortunately got relegated to one brilliant scene only, spending the others under bedcovers that serve as a conduit for a critical narrative flashback to happen, and to provide Manson with a reason to quit what he's doing and to escape from their reality. Michelle Ye's character as Jack's wife is even more wasted, being nothing more than as fodder for Louis Koo to show off some dramatic acting chops, which he does with conviction having honed his screen presence in so many films this year it's hard to keep track.
It's a little bit of a slow down and a bloat in the story, rather than to pare it down and keeping it as nippy as how stock markets behave during a bear or bull run. But the slew of veteran actors in Overheard 2 makes it more than worthwhile to sit through this, from Kenneth Tsang, Samuel Kwok, Woo Fung and others gracing the screen as Landlord Club members being a shadow of their more gung ho selves in the past. Chiao Chiao completes the picture as an Alzheimer's patient provides reason enough for Joe to go ballistic in his painstakingly complex plotting involving a number of random variables especially in counting upon the graces of reluctant allies being none the wiser. Action sequences are kept simple, from a nicely shot pursuit of a blue Ferrari to a man hunt down the busy streets of Hong Kong and a motorcycle chase that stands out amongst the lot.
Still, Alex Mak and Felix Chong, for all their films made together with Andrew Lau, managed to continue stamping their mark in the industry and in the genre, keeping things rather cerebral, and I for one am glad they had returned to their modern day roots from their recent blip in going medieval with The Lost Bladesman. I have to admit though I still prefer the first Overheard, although this one rewards the patient viewer.
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