Undercover Long Arms

Taken on its own, Long Arm of the Law: Part II falls into the Hong Kong action genre’s mass of films, forgettable aside from its emotional core. Linked onto the first movie in this series, that perspective changes.

Long Arm of the Law: Part II lacks the hardened nuances of its predecessor. That film held a distinctive look, near documentary-like, to amplify its realism. This sequel looks like any other Hong Kong-produced entry, even as the narrative pushes real world fears as a central plot device.

Long Arm of the Law: Part II still tells a competent, engaging thriller story

Decidedly more pro-Hong Kong, the three lead characters – Chinese defectors – become undercover cops in lieu of a prolonged sentence, while their personal lives filter into their work. Their personal conversations speak of labor camps and the need to escape Chinese authority, and in 1987, that message certainly carried bite. It still does, but in ‘87, Britain already signed a pact to turn over Hong Kong to Chinese authority. Much of the anxiety around that handover feeds this series its subtext, along with grounding the narrative.

Outside of the violence (with stuntmen flipping in the air during gunfights), a cohesive reality is integral to this narrative. One on the undercover team discovers his father is near death during the mission, and doesn’t have any means to visit because of the circumstances. Another boasts there will be, “no British flag over my coffin,” a proud statement during a particularly dense conversation.

What Long Arm of the Law: Part II isn’t is patriotic. Corruption filters through the police force, and the men forced into undercover duty hold no allegiance to any country; many of them speak of leaving, and one tries. Long Arm of the Law: Part II’s Hong Kong is both growing – the skyscrapers and business centers showing economic expansion – and faltering – cheap American fast food is a staple diet, and rundown apartment complexes factor into the backgrounds.

By the final act, shootouts and martial arts become the lone focus. It’s chaos, with the expected world class choreography leading into a final standoff with admirable tension. But, this is all so familiar too, completely indistinct from a style of film bloated in number. That goes not just for the action, but the dialog staging too. Unremarkable as it often is, Long Arm of the Law: Part II still tells a competent, engaging thriller story.

Video

Not literally but technically the better-looking of the two films, Long Arm of the Law: Part II carries far greater image density into the frame than the first. While this does lead to instances of crush (and some thick blotches of it too), the overall impression is of a denser, deeper image thanks to the improved contrast.

Underneath the perfect grain structure, sharpness and definition thrive. The texture stays precise, clean, and natural. Clarity remains as such whether in close or when delivering some stellar images of the cities from afar. Ceaseless facial texture factors into every scene.

The color aesthetics favor a dimmer palette, browns, grays, and pale blues. Primaries stick around, including the warm-ish flesh tones. It’s attractive, and suited to Long Arm of the Law’s tone.

Audio

The only option, Chinese PCM mono works sufficiently. The source material doesn’t show much life or energy. Dialog carries a faded, harsh quality and the thin dynamics won’t do any favors to the score. It’s adequate overall and nothing more.

Extras

Frank Djeng offers up the commentary precedes the other bonuses. It’s mostly interviews, beginning with director Michael Mak, then co-star Ben Lam, writer Phillip Chan, and writer Stephen Chan.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Long Arm of the Law: Part II
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Coming across as a more traditional Hong Kong crime drama, Long Arm of the Law: Part II can’t match the first, but still tells a gripping story.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 38 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:


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