It’s a place for housing criminals of all types, but Hong Kong action-comedy Breakout Brothers 2 is another attempt to make prison life look fun and while this is a direct sequel, the story is structured in a way that works well even if one hasn’t watched the original.
Directed by original film director Mak Ho-pong, the titular Breakout Brothers are Big Roller (Patrick Tam), Chan Ho-ching (Louis Cheung), Mak Kin-tin (Adam Pak), and Scar (Justin Cheung). Following their breakout and subsequent recapture in the first film, the group has become celebrities of sorts after returning to prison. They are living quite the carefree life, enjoying the routine and worry-free fun of prison, and this sets the tone of the entire story. There is violence, betrayal, and a hint of brutality in prison, but the film suggests that it’s really a matter of perspective. Of course, it helps that the established world is one where the characters, and by extension, the audience, don’t feel that actions carry consequences.
Given that the Breakout Brothers are contented with their situation, there has to be a very good reason for them to even contemplate another prison break, and this comes in the form of new inmate and primary antagonist, Ho Chun (Ron Ng), who comes off as a caricature of the ultra-rich and ruthless businessman with dealings in the underworld. He refuses to play by the rules, behaves in a hostile manner from the very moment he enters the prison but despite his attitude, manages to get most inmates on his side by bribing them. This chips away the power of Big Roller and Scar, who were the ones leading the inmates.
The tension between the characters marks the group dynamic more interesting when Ho Chun needs the help of the Breakout Brothers to escape from prison. Tonally, there are bits that do dip into the grittier side of things, but those are generally short-lived moments that only serve to heighten the dramatic tension. Ho Chun wants to escape because his court case has taken a turn for the worse, and escaping would give him the chance he needs to leave the country. Honestly, the reason he wants to escape is both unmemorable and not important to the story, since the important part is that he desperately wants to break out. Through a combination of threats and bribes, Ho Chun coerces the Breakout Brothers to plan another prison break.
And this is the meat of the film – the escape plan. All the moving parts that need to fall into place are described, and we see how the group resourcefully gathers all the material they need to carry out the plan, all while the tension and dislike for Ho Chun is still palpable. If you squint hard enough, the way we are shown the entire plan is not unlike the masterful “heist” sequence in Parasite.
The best part? Things naturally go wrong at every single step of the escape plan. Breakout Brothers 2 knows that the escape sequence is the lynchpin of the entire film, and keeps the anticipation high by invoking Murphy’s Law multiple times. The group spends most of their very limited time chiseling concrete to find an electrical cable that’s not there. They need the doctor in the infirmary to consume a spiked drink that he refuses to drink, and so on, and these wrenches in the works keep the film unpredictable and thoroughly engaging.
While the specific details of the escape plan relies on the bizarrely lax nature of the film’s prison, as long as one suspends disbelief, the plan is a surprisingly convincing one. It feels almost like a video game where the characters are given more freedom than in reality, and they use that extra bit of freedom to get around obstacles deliberately set up to be surmountable. It is a whole load of fun to watch the escape plan play out, go wrong, but somehow still work out.
There is a plot twist that resolves the tension between the Breakout Brothers and Ho Chun to a satisfying degree, and lands the entire group back in prison for the set-up to another sequel. The ending does leave more to be desired because of that, with loose ends left unresolved and quite a few characters’ fate not accounted for. This is especially so for Ho Chun, who is sent back to prison, but the extent of his actions means that either he doesn’t get his just deserts, or the audience doesn’t get to see him face the consequences. Instead, all of that is relegated to a film that exists somewhere beyond the “To Be Continued” text.
Breakout Brothers 2 is an unexpectedly fun ride that makes one jealous of the characters’ prison life. Sure, it’s not high art, but it is eminently entertaining and puts a smile on one’s face. The blend of comedy and drama is balanced well, like one’s favourite Starbucks order, where it’s not good coffee, but one can’t get enough of it nonetheless. Breakout Brothers 2 shows that this is all a film needs to be – a light-hearted, enjoyable romp.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Breakout Brothers 2 is a fun ride that makes prison life seem interesting, and you don’t need to watch the previous film to fully enjoy this sequel, which features an escape plan where everything goes wrong but still works out in the end.
Story - 7/10
Direction - 8/10
Characterisation - 7.5/10
Geek Satisfaction - 9/10