It's a non-sequel to Atsushi Muroga's Score
, with mostly the same cast playing all-new characters in another violent tale of gangsters and shootouts. Think of it as an "Amazon Recommends, Based On Your Previous Purchases".
The difference though was that I liked Score. This one, not so much. Atsushi Muroga makes lowbrow movies, yes, but he knows his genres and I actually think his work is solid. Unfortunately this sequel is written and directed by its lead actor, who doesn't really seem to understand what makes a movie work.
1. The characters are indistinguishable, to the point where with Kazuyoshi Ozawa and Shu Ehara I was having trouble distinguishing them. There's no excuse for that. Yes, those two look similar, but not that much. As for Aya Nakamura, she has so little personality that I half expected to learn that she was really a robot. Hitoshi Ozawa gives himself the main role as a bit of a bad boy, but the only people you'll really remember are the two bent cops.
2. There are no relationships. Score did really well at that, giving us relationships that had background and emotional weight. They evolved. Score 2 though merely has a bunch of gangsters who neither know nor care about each other. Admittedly one of them has a bit of backstory, but somehow even that manages to get thrown away in the climactic reveal.
3. The plot is both confusing and simplistic. A crook called Chance managed to get killed before he could retrieve 500 million yen from what's now an amusement park, so our anti-heroes give themselves the job of retrieving it. (They also give themselves code names based on playing cards, e.g. Diamond, Joker, Queen.) Once they're actually on the job, though, it turns out that someone's trying to kill them. That much I understood, but the film never managed to make me care about who, how or why. All I saw were random acts of violence against thugs who themselves were committing other random acts of violence, without enough emotional or geographical context to let me imagine myself in the situation.
Oh, and to be shallow for a moment... hair dye. Hitoshi Ozawa has given himself a caramel-coloured mop, but that's nothing compared with the horror of Aya Nakamura. She's so blonde that it's white, which looks both ugly and distracting. Without it she'd have been attractive too.
Mind you, tits and cleavage. You'll have to wait until almost the end of the film for them, but even a little is better than nothing.
However despite all that, the film isn't all bad. It has some comparatively good points and it does at least fulfil its objective of gangsters and guns. It's an action film, so the main criterion for judging it should presumably be its action. That it does acceptably. Everyone snarls, kills and dies in the approved fashion and there's even a plot fix for the silliness in Score of having its heroes still alive despite having been so perforated with bullets that it's a surprise their bodies have any blood left. Ozawa's answer is bulletproof vests. Makes sense. If you enjoy seeing people shoot, stab and blow up each other, you've come to the right place.
I also liked the police. Bent cops always bring a kick to a film, especially when one of them's played by the worrying Ryushi Mizukami. In Score he was the excitable untrustworthy one and as such was merely a good fit for his role, but here there's deep wrongness in seeing him supposedly on the side of law and order. There's something unsettling about the guy. To see him happy and cheerful is to know that something's wrong with the world. As a result he's easily my favourite character in the film and on looking him up afterwards I was disappointed to find that his acting CV isn't extensive, although he did recently write a movie. It's called Girl's Life (2009).
The silliest moment, incidentally, is when Takashi Ukaji says "don't kill them!" as he sends in an army of policemen with big shotguns to shoot everything in sight. What's more, this isn't a joke. He says it again later. However on the downside there's also a complaint that Japan's being overrun with foreigners and that's why there's so much crime. (The people saying this are scum, mind you, so maybe it's just characterisation.)
I didn't hate this film. I'd never dream of calling it good, but equally there's not such a great difference between this and its predecessor, or even between it and classier fare like Takashi Ishii's Black Angel
films. People you mostly don't care about die violently, in Japanese. They all work on a surface level of blood and bullets. None are as emotionally involving as they might be. I'm not really the target audience for any of them, although it still can't be a good sign that halfway through this one, my notes say "this is pointless". A certain character's climactic laughter doesn't work either, although for that I'd blame the actor.
This film probably works well enough if you're an action movie fan and I'm not going to be throwing away my DVD or anything. It's passable. On a traffic light scale, it's a fairly comfortable yellow. I wouldn't recommend bothering with it, though.