The story revolves around two brothers - the older brother gets arrested by his own younger brother for smuggling which finally sets him straight but his past refuses to let him go. It's basically like its 1986 predecessor played by Ti Lung and the late Leslie Cheung as the brothers and Chow Yun-fat as the gangster friend.
For all the strange choices and imbalance in tone that this remake suffers, Ding Sheng still goes in some interesting directions. Qindao may seem like a strange choice for a change of scenery, but the immensity of the sea - repeatedly celebrated in song by the character of Darren Wang - is an interesting substitute for Hong Kong - the soft tones of gray and green from the seaside replacing the lights of the former British colony. And the final, which we do not reveal is clear, can leave us with a final image more striking than the original. He still emphasizes heroism, brotherhood, and duty, but it engages the story more warmly and more tragically than the original. Long Story Short: A solid police drama on its own terms, A Better Tomorrow 2018, however, can not sustain the comparison with the original. But despite a hesitant tone, some heavy references and a coarse Darren Wang, still manages to introduce interesting variations and benefits from the charisma of Wang Kai.
Just like how the original movie turned out to highlight the best of Chow Yun Fatt's acting as Mark, the same goes for this 2018 version in which Darren Wang's acting as Ma Ke was a show stealer. I watched the original movie super long time ago so hard to be making much comparisons although I did notice certain differences on how the story plot being played out despite maintaining the definitive themes on friendship, brotherhood and crime gang. The action scenes were so-so in my opinion (the legendary shooting scenes by John Woo were classic memorables)but it did try to showcase its own flair when Ma Ke went solo to the Japanese triad. As such I feel this movie relies more on the casts' actings, from the main characters to the special guesting including the short scenes with Eric Tsang while in the prison. True enough, for me the chemistry between Wang Kai and Darren Wang was superb as they interacted throughout the movie. Although there were still that few moments I could not help but to feel if only they added in more of the "oomph" on brotherlihood with proper build up instead of just glazing over some difficulties faced by Zhou Kai in his failed attempts to rebuild his life the proper way as stepping stone to reconnect with Ma Ke again. I did not feel an equivalent level of chemistry between Wang Kai and Ma Tian Yu despite recalling this movie's key point is on these two brothers and how the blames, shames and guilts threatened their kinship. Nonetheless it was enjoyable still and definitely worth watching. I'd rewatch for the good 'ol feeling. And intermittently throughout the movie, you get to be reminded/reminisced of the original OST sung by the late Leslie Cheung.