Although it boasts three crackerjack action sequences, “Cold War 2” won’t wow Hong Kong cinema buffs who crave nonstop mayhem. This clever drama features more bureaucratic wrangling than criminal scuffles.
The sequel to a Hong Kong box-office smash — yet one that didn’t get a U.S. theatrical release — “Cold War 2” continues the 2012 film’s saga of intra-police rivalry. Sean Lau (Aaron Kwok) is now the police commissioner, while rival M.B. Lee (Tony Leung Ka Fai) is about to retire from the force. After a bungled operation in a subway station, however, shadowy politicos connive to replace Lau with Lee.
For the viewer, deciding which top cop to trust is a challenge, since each one sometimes works outside the law. The conflict is further complicated by legislator Oswald Kan (the ever-suave Chow Yun Fat), who’s on the committee investigating the underground fiasco. All three men run their own private intelligence operations.
Swaggering and kinetic when co-directors Longman Leung and Sunny Luk want it to be, the movie also boasts some nifty low-key moments. A discussion in a DVD shop ends with a witty payoff, and in a cross-cut sequence, two characters in separate locations write the same terms on a diagram — one in Chinese and the other in English.
The winner’s final stratagem is diabolical, which is both amusing and apt. Like such precursors as “Infernal Affairs” and “Election,” “Cold War 2” is playful yet also serious about the workings of power. Because in Hong Kong, power always means Beijing.
Unrated. At the AMC Loews Rio Cinemas 18. Contains violence. In Cantonese and English with subtitles.