The Four II (2013)

the four II 2013 poster

Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate 
Marcus Aurelias

Title
The Four II   (2013)
Also known as
Lawless Kingdom
Genre
Action, Crime, Fantasy, Melodrama, Thriller, Tragedy, Wuxia, Xianxia
Written by
Gordon Chan,   Maria Wong,   Frankie Tam
Directed by
Country of origin
China  ,   Hong Kong
Running time
117 minutes

oh! … background

The Four is the first piece of a film trilogy adapted from the novel series Sì Dà Míng Bǔ (The Four Great Constables) by Woon Swee Oan which had also been previously adapted as a television series. The second piece, The Four II and the third, The Four III followed in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

I am reviewing all three films in order and each piece individually. All three films are set during the reign of Emperor Huizong in the late Northern Song Dynasty.

oh! … brief

Following the defeat of AnShigeng (by the Divine Constabulary), an uneasy alliance has developed between Department Six and the Divine Constabulary. A new case is opened to investigate a murder in the suburbs during a staff picnic (Divine Constabulary). The attack kills innocent people and almost takes the life of one agent. Department Six agents just happen to be there to witness. Clues at the murder scene point to the historical murder of Emotionless’s family and suspects within Divine Constabulary causes infighting. A series of intense battles are faced and some new faces emerge.

oh! … talks film

There were several unresolved plots left off from the first film in this trilogy and the audience hopes to have these quickly resolved. However, that will not happen. Still plagued with issues in the writing department, the actors, cinematography and choreographed fight scenes are what continue to hold everything together.

There is some additional character development, but it’s pretty one-sided and the focus of this film is the backstory to Emotionless’s life. It appears that the writers didn’t even make the effort to pursue the mystery, intrigue and a riveting case of a father’s revenge. The narrative is exceptionally bland what little of it there is, and if I there hadn’t been any action, this film would have been an utter failure. Gordan Chan is no crime or mystery writer, he should just have left the writing to the writers of this genre. He really messed this screenplay!

I have no clue how faithful Gordon Chan was to Woon Swee Oan’s original story, but once again he jammed his screenplay with a little too much action, far too many murders in the string of them that occur in short time, character reversals that will have you scratching you head and wondering what the hell, and all the secrets and hidden aspects. It’s a lot to take in during 118 minutes.

The CGI and special effects for this production were excessive and this time round Gordon Chan didn’t even try to smooth the rough edges. Fortunately, the camerawork and choreography, once again a saving grace, manage to hold the production together. But even they couldn’t hide the cracks this time around.

Far too much, green screen was used – Cold Blood’s transformations or the attempted jailbreak (fiery oil and a collapsing bridge). As much as these elements distracted this time, the choreography of master Ku Huan Chiu remained spectacular and fast-paced. For any wuxia fan, Gordon Chan can mess up the screenplay and story, but he cannot and never should mess up the wuxia choreography – that would be a grave sin. He didn’t! But this time he also didn’t get the right camera angles to show off the mastery of the wire-fu. That was shameful! Things could have been so much better, but I’ve still seen worse Hollywood productions, so it wasn’t a total dud!

The costumes were once again magnificent and the music kept pace and added balance. And the cast remained faithful to their characters.

As mentioned earlier, the focus of this film is Emotionless’s backstory. Her character is supported by Zhuge Zhengwo and of course her romance interest Cold Blood. These three characters share a unique chemistry during this production, one that excludes the other characters. It’s a love-hate-love kind of chemistry, with all three characters reliant and dependent on each other, whether by choice or by the situation. It makes an interesting dynamic. Deng Chao, Liu Yifei and Anthony Wong are great in their roles. In support Collin Chou and Ronald Cheng play minor characters, but still, leads. They don’t have room to develop or grow their characters which are a flaw of the writing of the screenplay. Gordon Chan just didn’t pay attention or didn’t care about his writing.

A new character added to this production, Liu Yan with her ample chest played Ru Yan (Lady Fog). China’s most hated female actress, but she’s fantastic in her role as seductress and vixen who can shape shift. And that bust! Wowzers!

oh! … that’s a wrap

The plots are left hanging for the finale in this trilogy. This film was not as good as the first film, so I’m looking forward to seeing the finale. That’s not to say it was bad, it was still good by Hollywood standards. I’m perhaps overly critical, as a writer who prides herself in paying attention to details and research, I am disappointed by Gordon Chan and his writing team’s efforts. They should have done a much better job with the storyline, the plots, subplots and character development. Instead, a lot of attention was paid to the action aspects and elements of wuxia. And that’s not wrong given that this is a genre for the trilogy. But, it means that people watching are only watching because they know it has strong action. There’s nothing wrong in getting a strong action and a storyline together, right?

You’ll enjoy this film if you’re into wuxia, xianxia, martial arts and wife-fu. I recommend watching the full trilogy. You can’t start halfway through as there is too much backstory to the first film.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

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