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Original Title:
Sit yan fung wan 2

Hong Kong 2011

Crime, Thriller

Alan Mak
Felix Chong

Daniel Wu
Louis Koo
Lau Ching Wan
Michelle Ye
Huang Yi
Kenneth Tsang
Woo Fung
Wilfred Lau
Lok Ying Kwan
Chiao Chiao
Joman Chiang
Dion Lam
Kwok Fung
Ip King Man
Matt Chow

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Overheard 2

Story: When Manson Law (Lau Ching Wan) one day causes a traffic accident the police finds a bug in his car. After further investigation of the police there are listening devices found in Law's office, too. Law is a stock broker and a big name in this line of business, which is why it has to be suspected that someone wants to spy on stock secrets. Security Bureau Officer Jack Ho (Louis Koo) leads the investigation, but has to find out that he can expect only little help from Law. However, in the end he finds the man who is behind the spying on Law. But Joe (Daniel Wu) is not a man who is willing to get arrested that easily. He is playing a smart cat-and-mouse game with the police and always manages to elude them. Looking for Joe's motives Ho finds out that Law is a member of an organisation called Landlord Club. This club manipulates the stock market to its advantage and this even though initially this had only been done to protect local companies from being absorbed by western ones. Law finds out that Joe cleverly integrates him into a bigger game in order to take revenge on the Landlord Club.

Review: Really good thrillers out of Hong Kong were a rarity these last few years. Therefore, all hopes lay on Alan Mak and Felix Chong, who since their "Infernal Affairs"-trilogy are still considered two of the best HK directors nowadays. But the last few years they could only create some disappointments in the shape of "Confession of Pain" or "Lady Cop and Papa Crook". With "Overheard" they could finally deliver a surprisingly good thriller again, which revolved around the stock market and spying on company secrets. Therefore, it was obvious that a sequel wouldn't be long in the making. But "Overheard 2" is a sequel only in name. The movie doesn't demand any knowledge of the first part and it also doesn't feature the same characters. Simply the main subject is the same as well as the actor. This and the fact that the men and women behind the cameras are also the same make "Overheard 2" a well achieved thriller.

Right from the start it becomes apparent that the sequel this time comes along with more action. That is a wise decision since the numerous chasing scenes are consistent and blend well into the progression of the story. In the beginning there is also no time wasted on character introduction. Even before we really know who's good or bad the first captivating chasing scene kicks in. After only a short break the chase continous on foot, this time between police officer Ho and Joe, whereas Joe also doesn't refrain from using smoke granades right in the city center. Joe is also proficient in martial arts so that despite all circumstances he still manages to escape the police. Anyway, good and evil aren't easily defined here as you will agree when you see Joe taking care of his mother who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Maybe there are good motives behind Joe's actions after all. One thing is for sure, though, in "Overheard 2" nothing is the way it seems at first glance as there are some well done twists waiting for the audience.

Especially positive is the fact that the main characters also have their own little subplots which revolve around their private lives. This makes them more human and at the same time it allows the viewer to identify himself with them. In fact, this stands as the most important improvement over the prequel, although the newly added action scenes are also very appealing. However, it also has to be noted that at some points we get the feeling that the directors could have worked a little bit more with that. In the end, it might have been difficult to put huge character elaboration into practice without compromising building up a certain tension considering the two hours running time at hand. Nonetheless, the fact remains that there are a few unnecessary drops in pacing in the middle of the movie which really could have been avoided by a smarter cutting. Although the story is thought out really well there are also a few plot holes, e.g. why Joe is only attacked when he is already sitting on his motorcycle and can escape the scene.

Apart from some understandable plot holes that are the result of giving some action scenes their foundation the actual development of the story manages to keep the tension high. Especially the factor that the Landlord Club was at first aiming at manipulating the stock market in order to save local companies that were on the bring of collapse makes even the in a sense bad guys rightous people if it weren't for one guy who naturally can't get enough and lines his own pockets. It takes all the way to the end until we get to grasp the whole background story and we get to understand who is linked to whom in what way. The ending is also very nice since it serves a quiet but not really anticlimatic resolving that can be surprisingly satisfying. You could even say that you seldomly get to watch a thriller that makes you sit in front of the credit screen with such a satisfying feeling despite the fact that not every one of the protagonists remains without harm.

The polished, crystal-clear look, the blueish filter and a fitting soundtrack by Kwong Wing Chan make the film play in the first league on a techincal level, too. The actors are beyond the shadow of a doubt the best in their field. Daniel Wu ("One Nite in Mongkok", "Protege") most likely delivers the the most subtle and best performance in the film. Lau Ching Wan works well in his role and Louis Koo is a rightous police officer who even put his own wife behind bars. But this preys even on his mind and so he is someone who has to struggle with his own demons as well.
The stock trading is a big thing in Hong Kong and really everyone participates in it. Mak and Chong prove that they are familiar with the subject and even for those who normally aren't that fascinated by this subject, as is the case with myself, this thriller works very well. Is it really a surprise that there is said to be even a third installment? If that one should work on the same level as this one Mak and Chong would have delivered another really well done trilogy.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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