23rd Udine Far East Film Festival: “Shock Wave 2” Review

Good Hong Kong action cinema is like poetry – stuffed with great lead actors, grace, fantasy and pacing, it provides the audience with truly wild action. There is no denial that it has had a huge impact on Hollywood – the appearance of John Woo, Andy Lau, Donnie Yen, Aaron Kwok, Jet Li and Jackie Chan not only changed the face of Asian cinema but the portrayal of an action hero itself. They proved that a film didn’t have to centre around a 20-year-old trendy protagonist; a 59-year-old Andy Lau would do the trick.  

Image © Golden Village Pictures

Shock Wave 2 follows Poon Shing-Fung (Andy Lau), a hotshot EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) officer. While on the job, a bomb explodes, and Poon gets injured and loses his leg in the process. Nevertheless, not even losing a limb can stop him from getting back to work. He trains with a prosthetic, he runs, he climbs and does everything that even a person with both legs would struggle to do. Unfortunately, the police force does not wish to see him returning to active duty and offers Poon an office job. Frustrated, angry and humiliated, he leaves the job, but prior to this, he manages to voice a protest against his employer at a medal ceremony, causing more issues for himself rather than any consequences for the police. 

The viewers are rapidly thrown five years into the future where we see Poon at a party helping to set up a podium for one of the speakers and, unsurprisingly, another bomb explodes. Poon is found at the scene and becomes the main suspect, however, after waking up from a coma, he hardly remembers his past or even his own identity due to a form of traumatic amnesia. While under observation, not only does the police take an interest in Poon, but also Vendetta, an organisation that rages against the system through vicious terrorist attacks, run by Mai Sai Kwan (Tse Kwan-ho). Poon manages to avoid both, and while on the run, he is desperate to prove his innocence with the help of his ex-girlfriend, Pong Ling (Ni Ni), the chief inspector of the Counter Terrorism Response Unit. However, the closer Poon gets to the truth, the darker it becomes. 

Image © Golden Village Pictures

Although Shock Wave 2 by Herman Yau has an illogical storyline, the film’s director breaks down reality and rebuilds it well by using a lot of short shots, often in the absence of a lay-up shot. As a result of this, Yau was able to focus the viewer’s attention on valid details and create a precise action spectacle, set a specific pace, and characterise the film with strong emotions. The film has a fairly good emotional load, however, the characters (like in the first Shock Wave) aren’t developed enough for the audience to actually care for them.

Herman Yau’s film delivers a lot of shock waves with its redundant narrative, there is no doubt about that. While Shock Wave 2 brings some sort of commentary and critique of Hong Kong’s government organisations when it comes to the discrimination of disabled people, Poon’s character [as well as the storyline] overshadows those issues with his superhero-like strength and the overdramatisation of his actions. All of this gives the audience a bitter taste at times and leaves the film without any depth whatsoever. 

Image © Golden Village Pictures

Shock Wave 2 has countless weaknesses, but it also has its hearty moments. The audience might hold its breath in suspense when watching the climax scene, however, let yourself breath, because the way the narrative is wrapped up, you will have to wait a hefty 1 hour and 27 minutes for that explosive moment. The star power of Andy Lau is undeniable; he is the only one that carries the film on his shoulders, “helping” the viewers to endure the story until the end. Herman Yau’s production won’t satisfy film goers who seek more than just action, but it’s good fun for those who just want to have fun while watching a film of sheer madness. 


Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Written by Maggie Gogler

View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts and fashion, worldwide.

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