Overheard 2 (2011)
The original movie was well-received by critics and the viewing public alike. The thrilling sequences and the conflicts faced by the main characters between ethics and compassion; add that to a refreshing premise, everything about Overheard was begging for a sequel- except one minor issue- two thirds of the main cast had met their demise in the show, so had the main villain, the love interests and even the team leader of the other squad played by a typically over-the-top Alex Fong.
So what do the producers do to keep us hungry fan-boys at bay? Run another movie based on largely the same premise (phone tapping) featuring the same main cast members but otherwise an entirely different film. Sufficient elements are retained to justify categorizing it as part of the same series, in order to ride on the fame of the original movie.
To cut to the chase, Overheard 2 is not as good as the original. In the original, Louis Koo’s character evoked sympathy because he was just trying to provide for his family before he died of cancer. Daniel Wu’s greed was less deplorable because many of us can relate to a desire to come out from our rich father-in-law’s shadow and Lau Ching-Wan being torn between two loyalties.
In the quasi-sequel, Daniel’s quest for vengeance is not the kind of stuff that has you spurring him on (at least throughout the two thirds of the movie) while as the self-righteous policeman, Louis’ character does not tear at your heart the way his role in the prequel did. Lau’s role is the one with the greatest potential and Lau exhibits his typical quality but it was not quite well-developed enough for you to share his struggles and internal conflicts.
Is it a good movie on its own merit then?
Well, it would be hypocritical of me to suggest otherwise considering I refused to leave my seat until the show was over even though the pint of Mountain Dew I consumed was wreaking havoc after the first twenty minutes of the show. Moreover, for any criticism you level at them, the producer-writer team of Alex Mak and Felix Chong knows how to captivate the audience.
From the get-go, the surveillance sequence with Lau’s car, you cease reaching for the popcorn. Trust the team to come up with a way of infusing excitement into the otherwise boring world of phone surveillance. Then the emergence of the friend-or-foe characters in played by Louis Koo and Daniel Wu adds to the intrigue of the movie. For a while, it was as though the dynamics among the trio was going to sustain the tension in the movie.
Then the narration of how the ‘Landlord Club’ came about and things kind of went downhill. Though it is an essential element of the plot, how it was presented could have been done more adroitly. Kenneth Tsang’s appearance bumped the interest level up a couple of notches, the veteran actor playing a slimeball to perfection here as he did on countless other occasions. Unfortunately, his appearance also reduced the other members of the Landlord Club to mere wallflowers including the criminally underused Kong Ngai (who played Uncle Sing Wan) who has the potential to annoy the hell out of you- thereby causing you to cheer the good guys on.
The sudden manner that Kenneth Tsang’s character eliminated all guise of feigned benevolence and erupted into a full-blown evil self-serving cretin was rather abrupt as well. I feel the movie would have been better served if more was made of the Landlord Club’s Robin Hood intentions, a more gray personality rather than a portrayal of outright evil characters. Certainly Kenneth, Kong Ngai and Felix Lok have the acting chops to carry this off.
On the subject of acting, the main trio delivered. Not that you would expect any less of them. Lau Ching-Wan is one of my favorite actors because he always brings an added dimension to his characters- as Manson he does not disappoint. If the character does, it is the scriptwriter’s fault not his. Daniel Wu brings his typical cool demeanor to the character Joe and Louis is his normal (read: sweaty, anxious) self in his portrayal of Jack. The chemistry that the trio has is also evident and they feed off each other to create a nice tense atmosphere.
All in all, Overheard 2 is flawed but entertaining. In the last third of the movie, it has a taut feel and the final share acquisition sequence was nicely done. The way Joe’s death led the cops to the Landlord Club was a nice touch, giving a big nod to the original premise.
In the end the viewer is left pining for the ingenuity of the original but yet still sufficiently enamored to hope for a sequel. Not too shabby for commercial purposes which I would wager is still the main focus of the production team.
Overheard 2 (2011),