Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2 ★★★★½

The sequel builds on the first film in several ingenious ways, doubling and inverting just about everything from its predecessor. More romantic than comic, if the first film had a flaw, it was that it was so sweetly, almost innocently joyous in its cuteness. Koo and Wu chase after Gao with increasingly implausible displays of charm and conspicuous consumption, the luxury world the characters inhabit blissfully untouched by the economic catastrophe of 2008 that launches the film's plot (as such, it is a companion piece to To's other film from 2011, Life Without Principle which looks explicitly at the fallout from the collapse from the perspective of a cop, a gangster and a low-level banker). The sequel raises the price tag while further disassociating its characters from reality (only once does Gao take public transportation this time around, and only to prove a point, rejecting both Yeung's Ferrari and Koo's Maserati). Central to the inversion is a trope Yeung's character introduces, that of "reverse thinking". She hires Gao because she's wrong about a prediction, as being consistently wrong is just as valuable as being consistently right, ably demonstrated by an octopus Yueng and Chou steal from a seafood restaurant (doubling the legs of the totemic animal from the first film, Wu's frog). This is a film about people who constantly make bad decisions, who always do the opposite of what they should. The sweetness of the first film gradually gives way to a deep, uncertain melancholy. In one of the film's first crushing reveals we see that Koo still watches the video he took of Gao dancing in the first film, projecting it on a wall every night accompanied by the sickly sweet love ballad she's silently singing, it's the only way he can get to sleep. The past haunts him and destroys him, Koo is aging gracefully as an actor, and his weariness and dawning realization that his playboy life is nothing but pathetic (on the heels of a perfect storm of flight attendants) goes a long way toward humanizing a nearly impossible character. Koo's the most dramatic case, but the film reveals layers of darkness, self-hatred and lunacy within each of its principals. When the ending comes, it isn't the grand triumph of the first film, with Koo and Wu exchanging smiles and a friendly "thumbs-up", it's a world-shattering smash, the most powerful final shot since Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love.

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