Frankly, the bomb squad is probably the only department of the Hong Kong Police Force that hasn’t generated complaints for brutality so it makes sense that Andy Lau’s newest film involves bomb disposal. Of course, he has been here before, playing bomb squad Superintendent JS Cheung in Shock Wave. His story was pretty self-contained, but the franchise continues with a thematic sequel, in the tradition of the Overheard films. However, Lau’s new character is much darker and more conflicted this time around in Herman Yau’s Shock Wave 2, which releases today on VOD.
Nobody was better at disarming bombs than Poon Shing-fung, not even his partner Tung Cheuk-man. Tragically, it will be Poon’s career that will be cut short when the two are suddenly engulfed by a hidden bomb, after defusing two explosive booby-traps. Despite a prosthetic leg, Poon exceeds all the physical requirements to return to service, but the brass will only give him a desk job. Soon, Poon is consumed with self-destructive anger and anti-social resentment.
He is also quite suspiciously found knocked unconscious at the site of a hotel bombing. Rather inconveniently for everyone, the resulting shock wave left him in a state of complete amnesia. His old colleagues suspect he was working with the anarchist terrorists known as Vendetta, but we have to believe he was really working under deep-cover to infiltrate them, right?
Believe it or not, the handling of the amnesia angle is somewhat original and pretty intriguing. This being a Herman Yau film, a lot of stuff gets blown-up—in this case, a whole lot. However, the timing of Shock Wave 2’s apocalyptic images of mass destruction terrorism problematically come at a time when the puppet Carrie Lam regime is hyping up the threat of terror to justify Beijing’s draconian National Security Law. Yet, the truth is the law is being applied to forbid Hong Kongers from reading certain books, viewing certain movies, and voting for genuinely democratic candidates—none of which would prevent any of the crimes depicted in this film. As a result, there is a disingenuous vibe to the SW2 and its timing.
Andy Lau gives one of his best performances in recent years, seething with existential rage as Poon. Nevertheless, Lau’s fans have been disappointed by his cautious wait-and-see attitude during the height of the 2019 demonstrations and it was less than thrilling to read he serenaded the CCP at its anniversary bash. Again, seeing him now turn up in a “terrorism” thriller sets off alarm bells.
Shock Wave 1, as a different but similar character, reliably doing his thing as a tightly wound senior copper. Unfortunately, Tse Kwan-ho is rather underwhelming playing the villainous Vendetta mastermind.
There is a gripping scene involving a ticking bomb and a sniper that definitely shows Yau is still on top of his action game. Yet, it is impossible to divorce any new HK film from recent tragic events: 7.5 million people losing their freedom. The truth is there is definitely a terrorist organization operating today in Hong Kong. It is the Hong Kong Police Force, acting at the behest of its CCP masters. Lau diplomatically bemoaned the use of tear gas in 2014, but he really missed an opportunity to forcefully use his prestige to defend his fans and his industry. Technically, Shock Wave 2 is all kinds of slick, but it is a good example of why these kinds of cop thrillers just do not work under HK’s current oppressive climate. We’re just too aware of what its not showing us. Not good enough to overcome its propagandistic purposes, Shock Wave 2 releases today (11/2) on VOD.