Monday, August 12, 2019

Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy

You could say the Line Walker feature films are to deep cover operations what the Overheard films are to surveillance details. They do not share the same characters or a continuing narrative, but they address similar themes and feature the same actors. However, in this case, it is the bad guys who have gone deep undercover in Jazz Boon’s Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy, which opens this Friday in New York.

A shadowy international criminal organization is kidnapping children in the Philippines to be groomed and programmed to act as moles in police forces around the world. Apparently, the Hong Kong police force has been compromised, making it rather difficult to solve the mystery of a rash of suicide attacks plaguing the city. However, there might be a big break in the case when Inspector Ching To saves the wary freelance journalist-hacker Yiu Ho-yee from an assassin. Yet, just as he wins her trust, Cheng Chun-yin from the Security Wing sweeps in, claiming jurisdiction over the case and his witness.

Apparently, Yiu’s partner in Burma downloaded a hard drive full of sensitive intel from the conspiratorial organization, so a team will be dispatched to retrieve it. Rather awkwardly, both Cheng and Ching will be under the operational command of Superintendent Yip Kwok-fan, Ching’s current boss and Cheng’s former mentor. Unfortunately, the mission will go down spectacularly badly, in a way that will cast suspicions on both Ching and Cheng, but in very different ways.

Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, and Francis Ng are all back from the original Line Walker film, even though not all of their characters made it through the first feature alive. Although the first feature maintained some tenuous connections to the Line Walker television series, Boon basically shakes the Etch-a-Sketch clear for the sequel. What he keeps, besides the all-star trio, is an abiding interest in the psychological ramifications of operating undercover with an assumed identity. He also continues to stage some adrenaline-charged action sequences, but this time he goes bigger—way bigger. An unforgettable case in point is the final extended smash-up sequence, involving the running of the bulls in Spain, which Boon and action director Chin Ka-lok make the absolute most of.

Yet, perhaps the biggest surprise is Louis Koo. He has certainly played his share of steely gangsters before, notably in Johnnie To films like Election and Drug War, but as Cheng, he projects existential anguish and inner turmoil truly impressive range. Of course, Cheung continues to be one of the hardest hard-nosed action leads in the business, so Inspector Ching To is totally in his wheelhouse. Ng is also perfectly cast as the upright and conscientious Yip, while Zhang Yichi makes quite a creepy (and athletic) heavy as “Demon,” the henchman who becomes the primary antagonist down the stretch.

Admittedly, some of the over-the-top action will have the audience guffawing in disbelief, but you have to give Boon and company credit for their determination to entertain. In fact, the climatic sequences in Spain even rival the noise and fury of Hobbs & Shaw. Recommended for fans of HK action and the three big name stars, Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy opens this Friday (8/16) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

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