Chinese Midnight Express 2 [2000]
producer: Lee Siu Kei
director: Kant Leung
starring: Francis Ng, Peter Yung, Lee Siu Kei, S. Y. Lau, Elvis Tsui Kam Kong

Screening 6/16/00 at the Music Palace in NYC with Clarence Fok's "Don't Look Back...or You'll be Sorry!".

I'm happy to report that I've uncovered another gem. This film was a pleasant surprise, one that I almost decided not to see. The new Clarence Fok film was the feature of the double bill and I worked my schedule to see it only. By chance, I was able to arrive at the Music Palace in time to see this excellent film.

Frankly, I haven't seen the original film and I don't know much about it. This sequel is a Jing's Productions, Ltd. film produced by Lee Siu Kei, who co-stars with Francis Ng, a brilliant actor who seems to be in every movie.

Prison films are a popular sub-genre of Hong Kong cinema. Even Jackie Chan appeared in one [Island of Fire]. This one features all the usual stereotypes of prison life, but the well written script is driven by a subplot that takes place outside of the prison.

Chinese Midnight Express 2 features many actors who are part of Wong Jing's fine ensemble group that have appeared in many of his recent productions. Elvis Tsui is cast as the Chief Warden and he brings his usual fierce demeanor to this minor role. Though the warden is a bad guy, the real monster is his superintendent, a character named Piranha. Producer Lee casts himself as Brother Kei, one of the "heroic" prisoners who befriends Francis Ng's character when he arrives in the prison.

Ng is cast as lawyer Chan Siu Hong who is welcomed by the inmates because he had many triad clients. He is jailed on an assault charge from an incident involving a client and a Hong Kong cop who happens to be Piranha's nephew. Though accepted by the inmates, Hong is severely beaten by Piranha, and his assistant, to avenge his nephew. Hong quickly learns the rules of prison life. He uses his "honey lips" [speaking skills] to convince fellow inmates not to use violence to settle every dispute. In the end, violence erupts in the prison when a beloved inmate is killed by Piranha and the inmates seek revenge.

In this sub-genre, prison life is always portrayed as harsh and horrible with corruption on both sides of the bars. This film has a humorous prologue that features the producer making the point that his film is telling a story that takes place in the 1960's and that, thanks to reforms that have been made since then, life is very different in prisons today. Wink, wink.

Copyright 2000 John Crawford. All rights reserved.
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