Overheard 2 or When Is a Sequel not a Sequel

Let’s start with the title Overheard 2. Now wouldn’t this title alone lead you to believe that this film would, should, or could be a sequel to Overheard which I reviewed here. Then add in the following:

Same Three Lead Actors – Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo, and Daniel Wu

Same Directors – Alan Mak and Felix Chong

Same Screenplay Authors – Alan Mak and Felix Chong

Same Producer – Derek Yee

Same Underlying Themes – Covert Electronic surveillance and Insider Trading

I’m not crazy, am I? Every indication would lead us to believe that Overheard 2 was a sequel to Overheard. Only it isn’t. Which brings us to the question: Is this shameless marketing?

In China, there is a state agency which we shall label SARFT. Yes, that is an acronym, and sorry, but no – I didn’t make up the acronym. This agency aka State Agency for Radio, Film, and Television are the folks that decide what is or isn’t acceptable content for the few billion Chinese people. They also oversee the Internet as it pertains to content and access within China.

Now I have already told you that I wasn’t able to access my blog while in Yangshuo in China earlier this month. Now you and I, and possibly a good number of the few billion Chinese people, will find a small barrier/speed bump created by SARFT for Overheard 2.

Lau Ching Wan as stock trader Manson Law

In Overheard, our three stars played Hong Kong cops who were conducting a covert surveillance to uncover financial shenanigans by corporate honchos in the form of stock manipulation and insider trading. Only these cops decided to follow up, with their own money, and get in on the insider info and make a bundle for themselves instead of submitting the incriminating sound bytes. But Big Brother SARFT had decreed that crime cannot go unpunished – hence our three eavesdroppers could not be brought back for a Round 2.

Lau Chin Wan, Louis Koo, and Daniel Wu were the three leads who portrayed the greedy cops who only wanted to cash in that one time. This time around Lau Ching Wan plays a stock trader named Manson Law. He’s great at what he does and as such, he came to the attention of a group of very wealthy men, known as The Landlord’s Club. These men want to manipulate stock prices for a double purpose: to line their own pockets, and to beat outside investors (read US financial services firms and banks) at their own game. In short they believed that their own tactics were good for their country (the famous cloak known as nationalism).

They seek to drive up the price of a particular stock which hit the market with an I.P.O. (Initial Public Offering) price of 10 all the way up to 26, then they will sell it all off.

Daniel Wu as Joe Szema

While this is being discussed and planned, another player enters the fray. This would be Daniel Wu who plays Joe Szema, a master of covert operations in the form of electronic eavesdropping including the use of spy-cams, wire taps, and other illegal bugs. His target is Manson Law who is connected to The Landlord Club.

When Manson is called to meet with the Landlords, Joe is at the ready in a ‘nondescript’ van to follow Law and overhear what is being said at this meeting. But Law notices the van a few times too often, and attempts to race away. He’s driving a Ferrari. He has no idea that his car is being tracked by Joe with a GPS homing device.

But there’s a huge crash. Manson Law’s car collides with a truck. Shortly afterwards, the police find that a very sophisticated listening device had been planted in the car. That brings it to the attention of Detective Jack Ho played by Louis Koo.

Louis Koo as Detective Jack Ho

Now  Detective Ho is not only quite tough, but he is also nothing if not driven, persistent, and focused. He’s so connected to law enforcement and upholding the law that he even busted his own wife, an investment manager, for dipping into client funds to cover a short-term cash flow problem, and she did jail time.

Ok there’s your set-up. I’ve set the stage for you. You should know that these three characters will soon intersect. You should also know that this film has plenty of action packed set pieces – chases on foot (I noticed they used the Mid-Level escalator in Hong Kong’s Central District – a place where I had actually been just a few weeks before seeing this film), a car chase, a motorcycle chase, and some gun-play. Then there’s the insidious market manipulation.

There’s triads, an over-the-top boss of the Landlord Club, cops, and the whole thing is visually splendid. A key element to this film is not simply how they manipulate the market, but the script wants you to understand why they do so. But I must tell that this part of the film is a little long-winded.

On the other hand – this film does entertain. As for shameless marketing, given what I’ve told you about SARFT, that another film with a sequential reference would still have to have brand new characters; are you surprised to hear that Overheard 3 is already in production?