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A Chinese Ghost Story 2
cast: Leslie Cheung, Joey Wong, Michelle Reis, Jacky Cheung, and Ma Wu

director: Ching Siu-tung

99 minutes (12) 1990 widescreen ratio 16:9
Hong Kong Legends DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
It's been quite some time since I saw the first movie in what has become a trilogy of Chinese ghost stories, shortly after it was released in 1987. During the 1980s there seemed to be a large number of quality Hong Kong films coming into the market, mostly on video, adding a much needed mix of romance, action, fantasy, horror (you name it!) into the typically sterile Hollywood blueprint. Whilst some of these were retro-derivative, others, such as Encounters Of The Spooky Kind directed by and starring Sammo Hung, were brilliantly breathtaking: on all levels. And then the innovative producer, Tsui Hark, upped the stakes with A Chinese Ghost Story, gaining major UK cinema release and great reviews with its inspiring cinematography as well as all the other necessary ingredients, making it an absolute classic of rip-roaring entertainment.

However, either my enthusiasm has aged, or this 1990 sequel to that movie really did undo much of what went before. The pacing is slow, one of the monsters is simply dreadful, and the plotting and character development is much less involving. Whilst I anticipated a genre stir-fry, I was also expecting something watchable as a result. Unfortunately, there are large segments of this movie that tempt you to reach for the fast forward button.

Leslie Cheung reprises his role in the first movie as the tax collector Ling Choi Sin. Still pining for Siu-Sihn (Joey Wong), the ghost that he fell in love with in the first movie, and who - it is assumed - was born again as a mortal, he becomes wrongfully imprisoned, escapes, is then wrongfully assumed to be a respected philosopher, gets mixed up with a gang of bandits who are plotting against a corrupt general, and ultimately battles an evil Imperial wizard who is really a giant millipede. Along the way, Sui-Shen's lookalike, Ching Fung (Joey Wong again), falls in love with him - rather unconvincingly. And whilst Jacky Cheung's ghost fighting monk with a penchant of travelling underground is an interesting sidekick, he lacks the presence of Yin Chek Hsia (Wu Ma) from the first movie (who reprises his role in an all too brief appearance close to the end).

Some of the special effects are impressive. The tree that pushes downwards into the ground near the start of the movie is particularly vivid, and the martial arts fight scenes are also well executed. Yet one demon that pursues them during large sections of the movie is obviously a bloke in a suit, and contains no menace whatsoever. Whilst there is much intended humour here, it soon outstays its welcome because the comic timing is protracted rather than immediate. The energy that ran through A Chinese Ghost Story, whilst present, feels mistimed and ill directed. Certainly, aficionados of Hong Kong movies will find much to enjoy here, but for me A Chinese Ghost Story 2 fails to capitalise on the brilliance of its predecessor. Which is a pity, as otherwise the movie would have much to offer.

Extras include Acclaimed In Three Acts, an interesting ten-minute interview with the director, and Voice From The Grave, a 30-minute interview with co-star Lau Siu-ming, as well as trailers for this movie, and other Hong Kong titles now available on DVD.

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