At the end of the second “Lethal Panther” movie, I counted zero panthers, zero people with the nickname “Panther”, zero central characters to whom the soubriquet “Lethal Panther” could be appended, and zero links between the two movies. Not even director, as Godfrey Ho chose not to return for part 2 (part 2 has three directors credited on IMDB, although the credits just have one); I suppose the plot is sort of similar, but the same could be said for literally hundreds of movies from Hong Kong in that era.
The difference between the two movies is handily illustrated in the first five minutes, an extremely long gun-battle that obviously wanted to be like John Woo, but ended up just being confusing. A group of cops, led by a spunky female, are raiding the criminal base of…someone?…which looks a lot like a disused hospital. Thanks to poorly chosen angles, it’s very difficult to tell who’s shooting who, but a heck of a lot of people get shot; then there’s the kung-fu. The first movie had a lot of decent fights that all seemed fairly realistic-ish, but in part 2, everyone who fights is super-powered. The wire-work is insane, with normal cops able to kick people through walls, do that thing where they jump into the air and kick their opponent 6 times before they hit the ground, run up vertical surfaces and generally defy the laws of physics. I can’t tell if they just intended it to be this way or the wire guy they hired was absolutely terrible at his job – either way, it’s certainly visually unique!
The main focus of proceedings, though, is a cop by the name of Albert Moran (Edu Manzano, now a politician / game show host in the Philippines). His wife and kid were killed by goons from the Nichi Group, gun-runners who try and look legit; this has perhaps understandably made him a little touchy on the subject of crime. This behavior translates itself into slaughtering any gang members he comes across in elaborate, Stallone-in-Cobra ways. After brutalizing one poor fellow, he’s told by his captain not to do it again, or he might get in trouble! Wow, would I love to be a cop wherever he is!
I’m a little confused about the women in this movie, in that it’s now a day later and I’m really not sure what their purpose was. Ah, okay! One of them is a well-regarded HK actress who I’m unfamiliar with, Yukari Oshima, playing an Interpol agent called Shoko – have you noticed how much the Far East loves having Interpol in its movies? Does it just have more powers in that part of the world or something? Sharon Kwok is Sue, a local cop, and then one of them has a brother who’s shady as hell right from the beginning, in perhaps a nod to part 1, or perhaps just no-one cared about checking the script to see if it didn’t just rip off their own previous movies. The scene where the two ladies go for dinner, and one of them has a parrot on her shoulder for some reason, is a real puzzler.
The only obvious lift from another movie in “Lethal Panther 2” is the bit from “Police Story” where Jackie Chan falls from the top of a mall to the bottom, riding on a string of lights and crashing through a bunch of stuff on the way. It’s a little less elaborate here but still quite good fun – still, never quite seen the point of borrowing scenes like this, as all it does is makes you wish you were watching the original. Luckily, they didn’t rip off the bit where Shoko says to the mother of a murdered cop, “take it easy”, in the same way you’d talk to a confused child – I’ll give them a break for language, I suppose, but it still seems incredibly harsh.
There’s an absolute ton of action in the first half, then things go off the rails in what must have been a cost-cutting measure. All the various cops are looking after a witness to some Nichi Group badness, but she’s a model and needs to go to work. So, rather than just driving her there, they drive to Albert’s mother’s house, and just decide to stay there for the night. Huh? There’s no reason for it, other than to kill off some of his beloved family members when the goons inevitably attack, and to put Albert’s son in a bit of peril.
Without our old friend Godfrey Ho at the controls, this movie just turns into a dull mess, as opposed to a glorious one. There’s the barest whisper of information about why these groups of people are all trying to kill each other, and wasting the talents of Yukari Oshima seems a cardinal sin in the eyes of most hardcore Hong Kong action fans. Also, if you were buying this as some sort of girls-with-guns completist, you’d be pretty damn bored by the end, as the women are definitely secondary here. It’s free to watch, I guess, but then so is whatever’s happening outside your house right now.
Rating: thumbs down