Traditional kung-fu films have had a troubled history at the hands of Hong Kong Legends - from the sublime (Encounters of The Spooky Kind), to the ridiculous (Drunken Master).
Being one of my favourite traditional Kung Fu films, and having received a good rather than great introduction onto the DVD format thanks to Deltamac, everything was crossed for this DVD to be a hit...
Warriors Two follows the story of Leung Jan (Leung Kar-Yan), one of Wing Chun's most celebrated practitioners, and his disciples Cashier Wah (Casanova Wong) and Fei Chun (Sammo Hung).
After over-hearing his bosses plot to kill the village leader, Cashier Wah attempts to warn the future victim but is instead double-crossed.
Boss Mo (Fong Hak-On) is the evil conspirator , and upon realizing his employees eavesdropping could scupper his attempts to assume control of the community, orders his henchmen to kill Wah. After a failed attempt in which we're introduced to an eclectic mix of kung-fu masters, Cashier Wah is rescued by his friend, Fei Chun.
Fei realizes Wah is no match for the enemies he must face, and after some gentle persuasion, Leung Jan begins to instruct Wah in the art of Wing Chun - but at what price?
As you would expect from a film directed by and starring Sammo Hung, fight sequences are well to the fore.
It's always a concern when viewing older kung-fu films that the action will now seem stilted and uninvolving when compared to the wire- enhanced, CGI-laden offerings which cinema goers are force-fed these days.
Thankfully, Hung allays any of those fears with a collection of quite astonishing action pieces.
Sammo's mastery of directing, choreographing and executing sublime fight sequences is very much in evidence here. Whether it's Leung Jan's warding off of hatchet wielding henchmen, after his leg is encased in a bear trap, or Wah's arm-breaking encounter with super-kicker Thunder, Hung manages to create moments of tension and beauty throughout .
The action is as captivating as any you're likely to see, and with a plot which builds to a thrilling crescendo, makes for an incredibly fulfilling experience.
While Warriors Two doesn't have the most original of storylines, it still has plenty to offer for both new and seasoned viewers of the genre. The film’s tone is darker than you might expect, and aside from some ill-advised comedy moments dotted throughout, its action very much reflects this.
Down sides? Yes, there are a few.
Certainly Casanova Wong's rather wooden acting weakens the more dramatic scenes, as does the most intensely irritating man ever to have had the fortune to appear in a plethora of Sammo's Hung's productions.
Stand, or rather sit down, Mr. Dean Shek.
His mind-numbingly unfunny turn, as Boss Mo's sniveling servant is one that the film could have done without. The film's highly charged finale is badly let down by the inclusion of a supposedly comedic encounter between Hung and Shek.
Sammo does create two very human characters though - Leung Jan, perfectly played by Leung Kar-Yan, and Fei Chun, played by Sammo himself.
Both characters are the glue which bonds the film's dramatic, action and comedy sequences together, and without these two fine actors, the film would be severely lacking.
Negatives aside though, this still remains one of the most entertaining traditional Kung-Fu films ever made, and worth a place in any self-respecting fan's collection.
Using Fortune Star's new high-definition prints, Hong Kong Legends wave their magic wands, and transform this 20-something year old film into one of their most accomplished transfers to date.
incredibly good and, as you would expect from HKL, nicks and marks on the print are kept to an absolute minimum throughout.
Grain is noticeable in some scenes, and minor artifacting is evident during the bamboo forest sequence, but black levels are convincing throughout and add weight to the image.
One element which I'm still undecided about is the colour reproduction. Flesh-tones aren't that natural looking, with character's skin having a reddish hue to them. I'm not sure if this was an intention of Sammo or not, but it's never distractingly obvious, and certainly doesn't cause any problems.
In a word, Shocking.
This remix is not only distractingly bad in the way sound effects are placed across the speakers, but is also a complete cock-up by HKL on a massive scale.
New sound effects - Canto pop playing during the teahouse scene, "explosion" type effects when punches land, and some awful foley effects - have been added through out, and literally made me jump when I first heard them.
My jaw clenched throughout every fight sequence as the appalling additional effects, combined with the shoddy remixing of the original soundtrack combined to create one the distracting sonic experiences I have ever encountered on the DVD format.
If I were being generous, I'd have said that HKL had included this soundtrack as an early April fools prank, but unfortunately for them, I'm not going to be.
Hong Kong Legends should be utterly ashamed of themselves for having the cheek to even consider releasing this disc with this travesty of a remix.
Moving swiftly on from the soundtrack, the subtitles are thankfully an improvement on previous efforts. Many of the technical terms regarding the Wing Chun style are translated correctly, and very little is inaccurately transcribed.
My only gripe would be that Sammo's character, Fei Chun, is translated as "Fatty" throughout, which is incorrect.
I'm not sure quite why he should be singled out for such a change, as the other characters names are well translated. However, it was a minor disappointment in an otherwise distinguished subtitling job.
As this is one of Bey Logan's favourite kung-fu films, his commentary is as fact-packed and enthusiastic as they come.
Other special features include the original theatrical trailer (with untampered soundtrack) and HKL's Promo trailer, plus the main draw - The Way of the Warrior, a 45 minute "Making Of..." specially commissioned by HKL.
Talking to the main cast (Leung Kar-Yan, Casanova Wong, Sammo Hung & Fong Hark-On) and Guy Lai, the Wing Chun expert in charge of training the actors for their fight sequences, HKL try to cover all the bases in this well executed feature.
While I applaud Bey Logan’s inclusion, linking the subject matter with his own insights, his mini-kung fu demonstrations before each segment seem to serve little purpose, other than to show off.
all the new footage included, it’s a shame Sammo doesn't’t get more screen time – his footage appearing to be taken from much older HKL releases. Still, this is never a dull feature, and does contain its fair-share of interesting insights.
Trailers for Once a Thief, Full Contact, Bullet In The Head, Wing Chun, Prodigal Son.
A rather bare collection of extra features, with only the Making Of... adding much value to the disc.
Where do I start?
HKL get things so right - a great image, accurate subtitles, and then ruin the whole thing by including one of the worst soundtracks they've ever had the temerity to release.
I'm both bitterly disappointed, and incredibly angry at HKL's apparent lack of knowledge regarding this classic slice of Hong Kong cinema. As such, all I can say is that you will be doing yourself, and the spirit of this film a great disservice if you decide to purchase this release.
Truly, one of the lowest points in my DVD reviewing life so far...