New York Asian Film Festival ’18: Our Review of ‘Gatao 2: Rise Of The King’

New York Asian Film Festival ’18: Our Review of ‘Gatao 2: Rise Of The King’

“What is the family song”? A woman asks that question to a man that some call the President (Jack Kau). He runs the criminal underworld in Taipei in Taiwan. He tells her that it’s the ‘Song of Sorrow’. This is a modern ballad that his underlings are singing in karaoke.

In a way, that is fitting as a part of Gatao 2’s world. The sequel depicts two borough level gang lords. They’re Ren (Wang Shih-hsien) and Jian (Collin Chou), who oscillate from stabilizing their territories to encroaching upon each other’s. Their own underlings don’t help in the stability part neither.

There’s some good stuff here but the first half is hard to get through. Street level goons working for Ren and Jian just go from one place or another to wreak havoc. There’s a grand scale to the fights that we see here. However they are just way too repetitive.

The visuals are just fine, showing some turquoise tints. But it’s sill unable to leave the rut of the wet cement cinematography. I’ve said it before but there’s been too much of that color scheme. There has got to be better ways to show urban settings.

That said, it shows how gangs have permeated its fictional version of Taipei. The subculture of these groups are the reason families and friends have to separate for safety. There are scenes concerning Pretty Pan (Cheng Jen-Shuo) who Ren has exiled out from Taipei. And Chen excellently expresses his heartbreak over these separations.

There’s also a sentimentality that’s welcome in Chinese language films. Ballads play as scenes depict the normal life that these gangsters and their families can never have. There’s hope for the next generation not to follow the older one’s footprints. But they still have to make some very violent sacrifices.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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