REVIEW: Prison on Fire II (1991)

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1991, Cinema City & Films Co. Ltd.

Director:
Ringo Lam
Producer:
Karl Maka
Writer:
Nam Yin
Cinematography:
Andy Fan
Chan Hon-Wing
Editing:
Tony Chow

Cast:
Chow Yun-Fat (Chung Tin-Ching)
Chan Chung-Yung (Dragon)
Woo Yiu-Chung (Skull)
Yu Li (Ms. Wong)
Tommy Hong (Bill)
Victor Hon (Chiu Chow)
Frankie Ng (Snake)
Elvis Tsui (Zau)
Vincent Wan (Fa Chi)
Terrence Fok (Yung)

Four years after the release of this film, Lam, screenwriter Nam Yin, and Chow Yun-Fat returned for this sequel, which shows a friendship between Chow’s Hong Kong prisoner and a new Mainland prisoner.

Chung Tin-Ching, who is still serving time and is now in a bigger predicament than ever before. When a group of Mainlander prisoners arrive at the prison, war nearly begins between the two factions of China and Hong Kong. When Ching helps out a Mainland prisoner, he earns the respect of Mainland crime boss Dragon, who is serving a five-year sentence.

However, Skull, Dragon’s right hand man, begins to ally himself with new prison guard Zau. Zau is more ruthless than his predecessor, Scarface, and will not tolerate anyone. He especially has hatred towards Ching after the veteran refuses to give any information and is denied temporary release to attend his mother’s funeral. Furthermore, because he is in jail, Ching must have his son Siu-Leung stay in an orphanage.

When Zau sends Skull to give Ching a beating, Snake finds out and comes to his rescue. However, Skull kills Snake in the midst of all things and with Zau’s help, frames Dragon for the crime. Skull tells the fellow prisoners that Ching betrayed Dragon, making Ching a target for all the Mainlanders. Meanwhile, Dragon escapes from the prison. Learning of Zau’s actions and Skull’s betrayal, Ching makes a decision to escape in an effort to get Siu-Leung back and clear his name at the same time.

When Ching finally catches up to Dragon, the two set out to make sure they are not caught. When Ching tells Dragon what has happened, Dragon finds a way to make things right. When the duo head to the orphanage, Ching is caught and sent back to the prison. The film then becomes a literal title when Ching tells Mainland prisoners that he met Dragon and that he wants them to set the prison cells on fire to start a riot so that he can expose both Skull and Zau as their real villains.

Chow once again gives a rousing performance again as Ching, who attempts to escape on two occasions to see his son. Chow brings a healthy dose of angst and comic relief. The angst comes in the form of his being framed for betraying Mainland gangster Dragon as well as corrupt prison guard Zau, played with tenacity by Elvis Tsui. Comparing the two prison guards, Zau is truly an upgrade from Scarface as Zau is seen as more ruthless and goes as far as giving beatings when he feels like it no matter who sees it.

Like its predecessor, there is a scene that screams “homoerotic” but once again, describes the temporary peaceful existence and respect between prisoners. During their escape, Ching and Dragon go to a lake where they are goofing off and even go underwater to look up at the sun. Yes, it may make someone cringe, but others can read the scene as more than something that shows that sense of homoeroticism.

The action is well done here like its predecessor, with people getting stabbed and beatings galore. Surprisingly, Chow takes quite a few falls himself, flipping off a barbed wire fence and even flipping off beds and benches after getting him. However, one will really root for Chow again in the end, when he finally goes off the deep end once again and gets his revenge on Skull and Zau.

Prison on Fire II is truly a worthy sequel thanks once again to Chow Yun-Fat, who must once again go from being the beloved prison buddy to going ruthless when it comes to protecting his friends. Ringo Lam truly does it again! Plus look for a surprise cameo at the end of the film.

WFG RATING: A

DVD/BLU-RAY

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