REVIEW: Shock Wave – Hong Kong Destruction (2021)
Shock Wave: Hong Kong Destruction is the sequel to the 2017 film Shock Wave and, once again, follows bomb disposal officer Poon Shing-Fung (Andy Lau – The Great Wall, House of Flying Daggers, Infernal Affairs Trilogy). After a bomb disposal goes wrong, he’s left in a coma and without a leg. When he wakes up, he discovers that he has amnesia and has a connection to a terrorist plot to blow up an airport.
While this is a sequel, Shock Wave 2 is its own contained story, aside from the returning lead character. And it’s an reasonable attempt at doing something different, but is ultimately derivative of other action films.
Andy Lau is fantastic as the officer who gets demoted after a workplace accident and essentially snaps. The various roles and personality changes that the character goes through as he relearns who he is and what he did after his accident is challenging and Lau pulls it off perfectly. And, because the film focuses on him and his story and trauma, it is important that his acting was believable. And it’s a great performance that, for the most part, does well at gaining the viewer’s sympathy and support. This is especially due to the unfair consequences of his injuries. Strangely, his dynamic feels similar to 2004’s Saw; after finding out about a negative and life-changing experience, he snaps and goes down a dangerous path. However, the film is made more interesting after Fung loses his memory and must remember his previous life, similar to Memento. The film is happy to take its time in uncovering the mystery of his actions and uses the whole runtime to do this.
But this is also an action film, and the action sequences are where it comes alive and shines the most. They’re fun to watch and exciting. I would almost say that Shock Wave 2 seems more comfortable once the shooting and car chases start, because this is the strongest aspect of the film. The sequences put their locations to good use and, once again, Andy Lau thrives in these scenes; he’s cemented himself as an action star and I’d be interested to see him in more films of this genre.
Unfortunately, there’s a reason that other films have been mentioned: it wants to be the next The Raid, Memento or even Salt. The action sequences, especially the first one, are reminiscent of The Raid, the overriding mystery regarding Fung’s amnesia is essentially Memento, even all the way down to the twist, to an extent. It desperately wants to be the next big action film, but hasn’t understood why those films worked. Execution is a crucial aspect in telling a story and, if a film is going to be telling a story like this, it must be easy to understand. Shock Wave 2 is very confusing and not in a good way. It constantly throws out twists and turns to the point where, by the 1hr 10 mark, I was just along for the ride and didn’t really know what was going on anymore.
The third act is also in desperate need of another edit. Like previously mentioned, the film is happy to throw a twist every few scenes and the final act is the peak example. There is even a twist that, if it were removed, wouldn’t had harmed the film in any way, but would’ve made it a slightly more concise film. I’m sure M. Night Shyamalan would’ve been proud though!
Ultimately, Shock Wave 2: Hong Kong Destruction is a moderately successful action film sequel. Andy Lau is the best aspect of the film and is a delight to watch, and the action sequences are also fun and exciting. However, it’s clear to see that it desperately wants to be something cleverer than it actually is. It doesn’t realise what made some other, similar, films classics and is happy to constantly throw twist after twist at the viewer, without considering that this might provoke confusion and frustration.
If you do want to watch Shock Wave 2, it’s a perfectly fine experience for the action sequences. But good luck if you decide to follow the story!
Shock Wave: Hong Kong Destruction, premiered with Chinese Cinema Season, and is available on Blu-ray & DVD from 7th June and on Digital 14th June, 2021.