My Wife is Gangster 2: Return of the Legend

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“Improved comedy countered by disappointing action sequences, yet still worth watching.”

Everyone’s favourite scissor-wielding mobsteress Cha Eun Jin (Shin) is back, in a follow up to one of the biggest hits in recent Korean cinema. Starting with a rooftop brawl set to White Christmas, there’s no hanging around here: Eun Jin falls from the roof, loses her memory, and we leap forward two years. She is now living with a restaurant owner (Park), and regularly resorts to desperate measures, usually involving electricity, to remember who she is. However, as her foes first time round have plans to build a mall in the area, and her step-daughter is getting bullied at school, no prizes for guessing that memory’s gonna be jogged, sooner or later…

If the comedy aspects succeed better at the second attempt, the action is disappointingly brief, barely an afterthought. This is best illustrated by Zhang ZiYi’s cameo: just as the two ladies get to grips, the film abruptly ends, leaving you with a bad case of premature anticipation. The middle 90 minutes are still entertaining (not least because of the inept enemy gang she faces, who seek revenge, yet first want to be sure she knows who they are!), but the potential of the various plot-threads is never extracted, and one also wonders why there’s little mention of the husband from the original. It does, however, remain lots of fun, though it’s essential to have seen the first. Otherwise, you’ll wonder why that woman is shaking her boobs at our heroine, and calling her “Honey”…

It’s more than slightly reminiscent of one of my favourite HK films of all time: God of Gamblers, where Chow Yun-Fat suffered a similar bout of amnesia. Shin has charisma, yet not quite to the same degree as Chow, and much like its predecessor, Gangster 2 flirts with greatness, before coming up fractionally short. If any third installment starts with the Shin/Zhang battle teased here, it’ll be for the better. We’ll probably be in line for it, regardless.

Dir: Cho Jin-Gyu
Star: Shin Eun Kyung, Park Joon Gyu, Jang Se Jin, Lee Won Jong

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