Buddha’s boys in blue are back for another tussle with the underworld in “Hi, Dharma 2,” a surprisingly inventive sequel to the 2001 hit comedy (currently being remade Stateside). Film compensates for the deja vu factor with more of a plot and greater focus on fewer characters, making it overall a more substantial, involving entertainment. Comedy and Asiaphile fests should bite.
Delivering an elder’s last remains to a monastery in the capital, three monks (Jeong Jin-yeong, Lee Weon-jong, Lee Mun-shik, all encoring) find the place in hock for almost $500,000 to a redeveloper in league with some hoods, led by Lee (hawk-faced Shin Hyeon-jun). Given three days to find the necessary coin, the monks seem to get lucky when one of them wins the national lottery — until, that is, he mislays the receipt. Midsection is decked out with the same jousting between monks and gangsters that fueled the original film, and Jeong and Shin, as each side’s leader, handle their various face-offs with star aplomb. But it’s diminutive Lee Mun-shik, as the silent monk, who steals the laffs, especially in a sequence where he mimes the fact he’s won the lotto.