The first Cleopatra Jones, in my book, is one of the very best black action films of the 70's. Tamara Dobson made for a gorgeous and charismatic lead, the full embodiment of a strong black woman, who contains beauty, brains, and attitude. It also helped that her body was in such great shape, considering she was a model. She towered over her supporting actors like a giant, at 6 feet 2 inches. The film was also quite successful at the box-office and quickly gained a cult following that continues to this very day. So, of course a sequel had to be made.
The first film took place on the streets of Los Angeles, which worked great for the film's story, but the sequel moved things to Hong Kong, a location that better suits the playful tone Max Julien was going for. The story here is pretty mild compared to the racially charged one found in its predecessor, moving away from being steeped in black culture like most other blaxploitation films at the time. Here, two black male agents are sent on an undercover mission, only to find themselves getting into trouble with the film's villainess, the dragon lady (played convincingly by Stella Stevens), who is a sadistic lesbian and a marksman at shooting. Whereas Coffy demonstrated female empowerment in excessive ways, this film takes a more subtle approach, as Cleo is forced to go get her fellow male agents out of trouble, and save the day. There are no scenes with a female blowing a man's balls off here, the film takes on a light-hearted tone pretty early and sticks with it until the end. That doesn't mean it has no violence, there's plenty to be found here, but none of it is over-the-top like it is in the Pam Grier revenge movies.
As expected, Cleo gets hit on by her white boss, as well as the various Asian characters who take up most of the film's cast, and who can blame them? The fight choreography isn't the best, but their rapid enough so as to avoid tearing the film down, and thankfully, the movie doesn't just contain fights. There are gunfights, vehicle chases, and explosions aplenty, and director Charles Bail did a good job of keeping the ball rolling. There are some slow spots to allow the viewer to catch a breather, especially towards the beginning, but for the most part, this is a very action-packed film that has plenty of appeal for both Hong Kong action fans and blaxploitation fans, as the two genres mesh together and form a seamless whole here, similar to Black Belt Jones and Enter the Dragon. Cleo gets aided in the film by an Asian woman named Mi Ling, who proves capable of being able to kick just as much ass as Cleo. This foreshadowed the team-up of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour movies, as both trade quips and wisecracks throughout.
The acting isn't the best, but if you've seen enough exploitation movies, that shouldn't be a problem, as even the worst acting adds to the amusement factor. Personality-wise, Tamara Dobson overshadows the rest of the cast by quite a wide margin though, and I definitely disagree with reviewers who said she was best in supporting roles. I think both Cleopatra Jones films proved she could carry her own film very well. The movie hits its peak in the finale, which contains a large-scale battle in the dragon lady casino complete with motorcycles, machine guns, explosions, Kung-Fu, and swords, as both Cleo and the dragon lady duke it out in a fight I wish was a bit longer. It's a stunning sequence that easily one-ups everything that came before it. The rest of the action scenes are quite good though, and the soundtrack as well. I always liked the Cleopatra Jones theme. Sure, it's not iconic like the James Bond theme, but it's still really nice. If I had one major complaint, it would be that the scenes scattered throughout the film with the two black male agents aren't very interesting, and there are some cringe-worthy lines here and there, but not enough to ruin the overall experience.
It's a shame that another Cleopatra Jones film was not made soon after, I would've loved for it to be a trilogy, but apparently this one wasn't well received and didn't do the business the first film did at the box-office, so it's understandable. Still, an awesome B-movie gem like this is definitely worth a look alongside the first film, as they're among the best films of the blaxploitation genre.