Writer: Casey LeeWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Kepong Gangster"The Good, the Bad and the Gangsters:
Teng Bee's 2012 cautionary story of joining the brotherhood may have its down moments and a barely working cast, but it did manage to deliver its grueling screenplay through its imagery of being gritty and gruesome, rather than relying on the explosive and exaggerated that some other local gangster movie is prone in escalating to. However, "Kepong Gangster", in the end, is a deterring story and after the blood that has been spilled and left on the hands of its characters, it has served that purpose well. What sparked director, writer and composer Teng Bee to follow up on this story may appear that he could have been hijacking the core of "Kepong Gangster" and unwittingly turn it into a glorification of the thug life, but put down your steel pipes before shouting 'fan kuat zhai' (that's traitor in Cantonese). "Kepong Gangster 2" shows the next step that local gangster movies should take.
Being thought for dead after assassinating the boss of Gang 27, Billy of the former Five Tiger Generals of Gang 390 returns to the notorious district to rescue his girlfriend, Cindy, who has been forced into prostitution by the rival gang. While Billy is beaten to humility with barely an inch of his life, the only other surviving Five Tiger General Ah Zong, who has become a little legend of his own, lives an idyllic life in Klang. Together with Tong Tong, who has recovered from her mental traumas inflicted on her, Zhong has taken on a new identity as a humble mechanic to haze his neighbors and colleagues from his past criminal affiliations. When Billy finally gets his revenge on Cindy's pimp who has authorial ties in Gang 27, disarray is sowed between the ranks of Gang 27 and Gang 390 with both sides howling for blood. While peace talks are being done to settle bad blood amicably, Gang 27 is revived with a new leader, while Gang 390 is out looking for a new one who could command the respect of its rank and file to stand in line, or else an all-out gang war would break loose.
In many ways, "Kepong Gangster 2" is a marked improvement from its predecessor. For one, the extended cast with a mix of old and fresh faces gives a new set of characters for Teng Bee to weave into the main canon while allowing him to focus and deepen the characters who had survived the aftermath of "Kepong Gangster". The biggest benefit of this comes with the appearance of Crystal Lee, who shines naturally as the orphan who looks up to Zong and respects him as a brother, and wishing that her deaf sister would find happiness with him. But not just gushing over the added benefit, the real improvement centers on Henley Hii, who has managed to put his best performance not from putting down thuggish foot soldiers, but from eating a bowl of rice stew. While it has still has ways of becoming a compelling performance, it still has shown signs that Henley is maturing into his role.
Technically, "Kepong Gangster 2" has become stronger. An impressive score that is tuned better with the scenes they are used with will make Teng Bee one of the few local directors who does his own score. The camerawork of Tan Teck Zee is ambitious. Even attempting to pull off a one take fight scene (a la that one in Park Chan Wook's "Old Boy", except with steel pipes and plastic chairs) if only it was not matched by the less daring choreography and stunts.
But even with the fancy upgrades, Teng Bee, who also wrote the screenplay, keeps the soul of the underlying message of "Kepong Gangster"; once you are in, you can never get out and it will demand the dearest price of those who are entangled in its web of power struggles, loyalty, and pride. Teng Bee is daring to go for the extra mile and it pays off endearingly in that shocking scene to nail that message home.
"Kepong Gangster 2" is a deserving and rightful sequel. It improves where the first one lacked without giving up on its spirit. It is also one that should not be overlooked in the grand scheme of local gangster series that should look to as inspiration on where the heart of gangster movies should matter; the men and women who are forever denied the good things in life and are drawn into this vicious cycle fueled by raw emotional forces.Look Out For:
That scene at the dump site. Trivia:
Teng Bee had to show a 8 minute short film to the local gangsters to gain their 'permission' to shoot on location for the main feature.Best Watched With:
Malaysians who want to see how a local gangster movie should be done. Cinema Online, 09 March 2015