second (and my favourite) of Tsui Hark's
original Wong Fei-Hung trilogy has finally been brought to the PAL
DVD format, courtesy of HKL...
Upon their arrival in Canton to attend a medical convention, Wong,
Aunt Yee and Leung Foon are confronted by the fanatical White Lotus
Wearing Western clothes, and carrying her trusty camera, Aunt Yee
soon becomes a target for the Sect - a society formulated to combat
the invading foreign influences in China.
As is his way, Wong appears in the nick of time to save Yee, and
soundly beats a number of the Sect's men.
This confrontation immediately makes Fei-Hung an object of contempt
for the Sect, and also the town.
Deciding it best to leave before further blood is shed, Wong gathers
his belongings but is alerted to a horrific attack on the local
English language school.
With his strong moral code, Wong decides to stay and help the survivors,
but soon realises it is not just the Sect who he must battle...
developing the ongoing romance between Fei-Hung and Aunt Yee, whilst
also incorporating some wonderful action and a strong plot, Once...2
is equally as strong as it's prequel.
The storyline maintains many of the elements which made the original
so good, with the slow integration of Western ideas and inventions
both helping and hindering Wong's feelings towards his country.
Jet Lee's superb interpretation of Wong
Fei-Hung is further enhanced, as his true feelings for Aunt Yee
are slowly revealed, and the more human side of his character starts
to shine through.
Opposing and matching Jet's performance is Donnie
Yen's. His portrayal of General Yan is superb, and goes to show
that with the right director, Donnie is a far more accomplished
actor than many of his films give him credit for.
From a technical perspective, the direction and cinematography is
as equally impressive as the original's, and in some cases, more
The final scene in the White Lotus sect's temple is stunningly edited
and lit, and it's this segment which always draws me back for repeat
Quite why I prefer this film to the original I'm not sure.
Both films are exceptional in their depiction of Wong, their narrative
and fight sequences, and their consistent tone.
Maybe it's to do with the fact that I stupidly saw Part 2 before
Part 1, and therefore it holds a different place in my heart....who
Either way, this is one film which you simply MUST own, and thanks
to HKL, you can.
amount of grain is noticeable in a couple of scenes, but generally
the prints looks superb.
Detail is equally impressive. In particular, Wong's assault on the
Sect's temple looks wonderful. The lighting used throughout is beautiful,
and details, such as the droplets of blood covering Wong's face,
are clearly seen.
This fine detail was never present on any other version of the film
that I own, and adds a great deal to the experience.
On the down side, black levels very occasionally veer towards dark
grey, and ever so slightly diminish the otherwise cinematic appearance
of the transfer.
Print damage is extremely rare, with only the odd sparkle popping
up from time to time.
Colour reproduction is generally very good, although there is an
occasional muted-ness to some scenes.
It's difficult to tell whether this is is a problem with the print,
or a Tsui Hark decision, but I'll give HKL the benefit of the doubt.
Having said all this, the transfer should be regarded as a major
success. I've never seen the film look as good as it does here,
and can't believe it'll ever look much better.
dialogue is perfectly clear throughout, sound effects, as when Wong
connects with his opponents, occasionally seemed to get overpowered
by other elements of the soundtrack.
The film's well-known strident theme "The General's Mandate"
is reproduced well, though it seems to lack the impact which I remember
it contained on the Mono VHS version.
Surround effects are kept to a minimum, and the "mix"
rarely distinguishes itself as being a 5.1 Digital soundtrack.
A good, though far from impressive, remix.
Just as an aside, the English dub should (as in almost all cases)
be avoided. If you do attempt to listen to it though, you'll be
greeted by dialogue which sounds like it was recorded in a broom-cupboard!
are grammatically perfect and well synched, but they frequently
simplify lines of dialogue.
This usually comes in the form of a Westernised translation of a
Chinese term, or the compacting of a conversation's dialogue.
It doesn't ruin the film, but it does slightly reduce the "Chinese-Ness"
of the viewing experience.
Most disappointingly, whilst written Chinese is translated, the
film's main theme, and the blind man's lament in the restaurant,
are left unsubbed.
improvement over previous attempts, the stylishly designed menus
are attractive throughout.
As usual, the main menu contains a looping selection of clips from
However, this time, the montage of scenes is better balanced and
is accompanied by a far more fitting soundtrack.
I personally would have preferred the Wong Fei-Hung theme to have
been played over the menus, but the piece of instrumental music
used fits the movie well.
glance, there seems to be a very good selection of extras. However,
on closer inspection the "Special Features" aren't quite
as special as they appear...
Donnie Yen (16 mins) - This specially filmed interview
with Donnie Yen offers many interesting insights into the film making
process of Once Upon A Time In China 2.
Also covered are Donnie's approach to his role as General Yan, as
well as his action scenes, and it's easily the disc's best extra.
Jet Li (10 mins) - This very disappointing interview
with Jet is in fact the footage taken of his appearance at a Hong
Although Jet comes across as a thoroughly charming, and somewhat
shy individual, he is asked nothing about his role in the Wong Fei-Hung
This extra felt very much like a "filler" feature, and
came as a great letdown to me.
Although the purported Rosamund Kwan
biography listed on the cover is absent, this Jet
Lee bio. is still one hefty mine of information. Lasting a staggering
30 minutes, it covers a massive amount of detail.
However, I couldn't be bothered to sit through more than a couple
of seconds, as the dreadful voice-over man reared his ugly head.
Please, I beg you HKL - make the biographies TEXT ONLY!
A "look once and forget it" photo gallery, featuring a
reasonable amount of shots.
For once, the HKL trailer is the equal of the Original Theatrical
As with the menus, I still would've preferred the usage of the Wong
Fei-Hung theme instead of this newly created piece. It's a very
nice instrumental score, which manages to capture some of the flavour
of the film, but it doesn't have the spine-tingling effect which
the General's Mandate has over me.
Another feature-length commentary by the one and only Bey Logan.
Although it's a very interesting and informative piece, covering
a multitude of aspects, the lack of another actor or crew member's
input is somewhat disappointing.
begun to reach mastery of their art, HKL give this superb film the
presentation it deserves.
Whilst the extras are not quite as impressive as they first appear,
this is a still a recommended purchase, and one which you'll treasure
for a very long time.