Chinese Midnight Express 2 (1999)
Directed by: Kant Leung
Tagline: "More realistic than Prison on Fire"
Hong Kong prison movies seem to be fairly common nowadays after the success of the Prison on Fire (1987) series, but this movie is different to those action-based dramas in that it has a more realistic feel to it. It also seems to have more credibility since it is introduced as a historical account of an incident that occurred in the jail in 1968.
'The Barrister' has had the bad luck of assaulting a police officer in a fight who just happened to be best mates with the top warden (Piranha and Mr John) and is sent inside for 9 months. On the ride in he is consoled by one of his clients, Reddie, who says it was 'his fault' for defending himself against the police when he was punched by a cop for trying to stop them hitting his client.
Once inside, Piranha makes it immediately clear that he doesn't want The Barrister to cause trouble - then he takes him to his office and beats the crap out of him.
Something this film gets right are the conditions inside the jail, in stark contrast to Prison on Fire, which glamorised prison life, this makes it seem like it could actually have been like that. As soon as The Barrister walks into the 'Recreation Room' he sees a man smoking crack, men with bitches, crooked wardens, and Keith, who is doing another bloke up the arse.
The Barrister doesn't want to cause any more trouble, so he insists the prisoners call him Brother Hong. He also finds out that the prisoners regard him as an idol because he defended most of them and pleaded for reduced sentences and he soon makes friends with two of the 'top men': Brother Kei and Jelly Fish.
Settling down into prison life, he has the usual dramas, but is befriended by a rookie prison guard who has the same attitudes as him to violence and he allows him to date his younger sister on the outside. Little does Brother Hong know that Mr John has already taken an interest in both his sisters...
While it may not be up to the standards of the Prison on Fire movies or as well known as Chopper or the Shawshank Redemption, this movie is well worth seeing if you want an insight into this movie genre in Hong Kong cinema.
I really enjoyed the performances of the supporting characters also. For example, the man called Fairy "An observation, torn trousers can often be mended" - that's his only line in the movie, but he repeats it at different times to comic effect that reminded me of the "Buddha be praised" monk from Storm Riders.
As you would expect, the head warder comes out looking very evil and the government and police are portrayed as the bad guys.
I would recommend this movie if you liked Prison on Fire, but want to see something more dramatic and realistic.