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Bride with White Hair 2, The
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by Jay Seaver

"You hate to see a classic so quickly tainted by a rushed, pointless sequel."
2 stars

"The Bride with White Hair 2" came out so quickly on the heels of the first - a mere four months later - that one wouldn't be surprised if they were planned as a single work with a cliffhanger or the sort of change in focus where both halves benefit from a split in the middle. That's not the case, though: Where the first movie was bold and a career high point for director Ronny Yu, the second is just a cost-controlled horror sequel, the sort that passes the baton to someone who worked on the first to try and get something out of a less-expensive young cast that may be good-looking but whose charisma doesn't add up to Leslie Cheung's between them.

It's been over a decade since Yi-Hang's doubt enraged Lien Ni-Chang (Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia) so much that she transformed into a white-haired witch who slaughtered the martial artists aligned with her lover, and while Yi-Hang (Cheung) has been waiting for a magic flower to blossom in the hopes that it will return Ni-Chang to normal, the eight clans have been rebuilding, gathering on the occasion of the wedding of Wu Tang's prize student Fung Chun-Kit (Sunny Chan Kam-Hung) to the lovely Lyre (Joey Man Yee-Man). History repeats when Ni-Chang shows up, with Kit barely escaping with his life and nursed back to health by tomboyish friend Moon Ling Yuet Yee (Christy Chung Lai-Tai) while Lyre is taken to the compound where Ni-Chang has started a cult of her own, this one comprised of misused women, with first disciple Chen Yuen Yuen (Tiu Gwan-Mei) eager to turn Lyre against Kit.

Watching the two films back to back, the shift in general style is immediately striking, even beyond going from the wide Panavision image of the first to the flat-lensed shape of the second. Director David Wu Dai-Wai, who co-wrote and edited both films, seems less visually ambitious where motion and design is concerned, having cinematographer Joe Chan Kwong-Hung capture some nice compositions as people gather but seldom has the same eye for action and movement (interesting, as the two films share action director Phillip Kwok Chun-Fung). What's most telling is how the second derives little benefit from being superficially more polished - the sets seem more built-up and the picture has less grain, to the extent that I wondered if this movie had undergone a restoration, but it seems plain, taken out of a dreamlike fantasy world but not quite seeming real.

The film also lacks the romantic core that gave the first Bride[/]> so much of its life. Sunny Chan and Man-Yee Man are good looking young people, but they feel like teenagers with crushes where Lin and Cheung were sexy; the attraction between Kit and Lyre is never powerful enough to be as important to the quest as revenge/justice for Ni-Chang's massacre. You get more out of Christy Chung, whose Moon is clearly fond of Kit, and whichever one of the half-dozen interchangeable young men from the other clans who join them. Brigitte Lin seems almost bored here, with Ni-Chang reduced to being little more than a one-note villain without equals to play against. Tiu Gwan-Mei seems like she's got a chance to do something interesting with true believer Yuen Yuen, but little comes of it.

Though Leslie Cheung is first-billed - he was one of Hong Kong's biggest film and music stars at the time - Yi-Hang is barely seen throughout the film, mostly in flashbacks and an opening scene that certainly could be cut or repurposed footage from the first. When he does show up for the last fifteen minutes or so of the film, the younger cast is easily swept aside, and one almost gets frustrated at what the film could have been as Yi-Hang and Ni-Chang are immediately drawn to each other, but there's obvious tension around how she's been trying to live some sort of life despite being full of rage at his betrayal (and her best friend feeding her anger) while he's been waiting to give her some flower that will magically solve everything. One can't help but look at that and think that there's a potentially worthy sequel if the filmmakers were looking for a quality follow-up.

That, apparently, wasn't nearly as important as getting something into theaters as quickly and cheaply as possible, and 25 years later, the first "Bride with White Hair" is a classic and this is the thing you might as well watch if they both show up in the same place at the same time, or if you're trying to see everything Cheung or Lin was in, and not much else.

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originally posted: 04/05/20 17:11:23
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  DVD: 22-Jul-1998

  N/A (18)

  N/A (M)

Directed by
  David Wu

Written by
  David Wu
  Ronny Yu

  Brigitte Lin
  Sunny Chan
  Yee-Man Man
  Christy Chung
  Leslie Cheung

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