Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Ghetto Justice 2" Review

"Ghetto Justice" unexpectedly became the sleeper hit of the year when it was released in 2011, becoming a critical and fan favorite.  Since then, many people had anticipated the sequel, including myself.

"Ghetto Justice 2" was set up very nicely.  It was one of the few sequels that truly felt like a continuation from the original.  All the principle cast members had returned, the ones who did not were heard from and had explained absences (Eddie Kwan and Joyce Tang), and the new characters (Raymond Cho, JJ Jia, and Crystal Li) were introduced well.

It all goes downhill from there though. The cases were weak, forgetful, and overall just uninteresting.  They failed to command attention, and with the excessive family related cases settled out of court, it strayed from the fact "Ghetto Justice" is a law series.  There were no captivating court scenes here.  Even the cases that had potential, such as the building collapse, were written poorly and ended abruptly. 

The heart and soul of "Ghetto Justice", embodied in the character of Law Ba made infamous by Kevin Cheng, lost his touch.  His ego seems to have inflated since the original, making him go from lovably cocky to just plain obnoxious at times.  His laziness and playfulness has elevated, and the brilliant lawyer failed to be exhibited much.  All of the subtle characteristics and flaws that made him special and likable in the first one were unnecessarily magnified.  He's still a likable enough character, but just not the same Law Ba that the audience came to love.

Myolie Wu delivers a repeat performance.  She reprises the role and shows small improvements, but doesn't present anything too new or impressive.  She and Kevin still have a great amount of chemistry together, and appear very natural.

"Ghetto Justice 2" wins the award for bringing in the most unnecessary plot device for its story ever: the love triangle.  The sequel saw challenges for Law Ba and Wong Sze Fu through Law Ba's ex-wife Lynette, played by Christine Kuo, who somehow managed to remain unknown to any of the other characters for so long.  The idea already seemed bad in theory, and its execution was no better.  Lynette was irritating, and almost singlehandedly makes the series a long draggy, mess.  There were some redeeming traits in the character, such as her wish to truly help people as a doctor, but her foolish love for Law Ba masks her potential likability.  Christine gives a mediocre performance with jumbled Cantonese and unnatural crying scenes, but the scene where she challenges Myolie to fight for Kevin showed she can be pretty fierce. 

Between the weak cases and overall storyline, the decline in Law Ba's level of likability, and the addition of Lynette, it was the supporting cast that kept me watching (that, and I didn't want to just drop the series since I enjoyed the original so much).

"Ah Dan" (Sam Lee) was already likable in the original, and continues to be.  In fact, I held a higher appreciation of the character of Ah Dan and Sam's subtle yet real portrayal of him this time around.  He is kindhearted and concerned of the well being of society to a fault, but has a tendency to neglect family.  Regardless of how small the appearance, it was also great that Sharon Chan was able to make a cameo as Ching Ching through the form of Ah Dan's memory and mind. 

I had major doubts of the pairing of Sam Lee and JJ Jia, but they turned out to be the pair I enjoyed watching most, from their initial dislike and misconceptions of each other, to their friendship and mutual understanding, to their eventual realization of their love of each other.  At first, JJ Jia's character Ah Sum seemed like she'd be very annoying, but she turned out to be a sweet, kind, caring, but smart girl.  JJ performed quite well, bringing out the heart and wisdom in Ah Sum.  She knew to remember the memories forever, but not let the past keep her from being happy in the present and future.  Her unwavering care of Ah Dan and willingness to help him through thick and thin was touching, particularly when she steered him to learn to accept his mother's death and mend his relationship with his father.  It was a plot line that could have been draggy to watch, but one of few things that were executed well in the series. 

Jazz Lam reprises his endearing performance as the adorable and gentlemanly MJ with ease, and it continues to shock me how he emerged into the character so naturally with his record of playing more rough and immature, younger characters.  Raymond Cho as "Leung Bao" was an appropriate replacement for Eddie Kwan, and had no trouble filling the void left in Law Ba's gang of friends.  Crystal Li did not have much development or screen time to work with as "Grace", but was very likable and shows potential as well as a certain aura of sweetness and intelligence to her.  However, the oddest character and casting decision was Elena Kong, who is pictured on the poster and initially appears to be a main cast member.  Her character had potential for development and another storyline.  Yet, she disappears after her divorce case and is never heard from again.

"Ghetto Justice 2" is deceiving.  It looks the same and as good as the original the outside with the return of its original cast and smooth entrance of new characters, but it's not.  The overall vision and point of the series did not mirror up to the first one.  It tried to expand on what made the original so beloved, but along the way ruined itself.  The sequel holds little novelty and things to praise about, but is full of weak and sloppy writing.  Perhaps it would have been better if the original producer Tong Kei Ming had returned, as he was replaced by newly promoted producer Joe Chan after announcing retirement.


"Ghetto Justice 2" feels more like a chore to watch than a pleasure, and definitely does not live up to the hype or the original.  With the exception of Christine Kuo, the series does boost solid acting.  However, the point that good acting can not save a bad script has been made and beaten to death by TVB a thousand times over, and "Ghetto Justice 2" is just another example.  The story is not engaging and sloppily written and should not be linked to the original.  There were some entertaining moments and I enjoyed watching the cast (mostly Sam and JJ), but the bad and weak outweighs the good.  Now that this review is written and done, I can now pretend there was never a sequel made for "Ghetto Justice".

Rating: 2 stars