Though it was released first, in story terms Warriors Two is a sequel to The Prodigal Son. There are pros and cons to watching them in either order. Watching Warriors Two first gives you a chance to appreciate Sammo Hung’s growth as a director, especially when it comes to handling performances. On the other hand, the story of Leung Tsan tracks beautifully if you watch The Prodigal Son first, with the character being shaken out of his immaturity then seen as a much older, more grounded and refined man in Warriors Two. Either way, you’re getting two compelling and exceptionally fun kung fu movies.
Leung Tsan (played here by Leung Kar Yan, who was at least 40 years younger than his character) is not the main character of Warriors Two, rather he is the mentor and Sifu to Sammo’s Fei Chun and Casanova Wong’s Cashier Hua. The very basic story has the two of them discover bad guy Fung Hark-on is plotting to kill the mayor of their small town. Training and revenge, as ever, ensues.
The mix of kung fu and comedy can often be a difficult one for international audiences, but Sammo Hung gets the balance just about perfect here. The comedy doesn’t feel too local. Whether it’s the playful opening sequence with Hung trying sell his dumplings, but often ending up eating them himself or the blindfolded training session in which both he and Wong eventually end up peeking out to see where the other is, the jokes hit and feel like an organic part of the scenes.
This is a less acting focused film than The Prodigal Son, but Leung Kar Yan’s Leung Tsan is a calm centre grounding his students, aside from that you have Hung as the mischievous student, Wong as one more earnestly attempting to learn and Cheung Man Ting (who is, for some reason, uncredited on imdb and Wikipedia) as the tough ‘senior sister’, niece to Leung Tsan. The characters are pretty broadly drawn, but after the first act this is almost entirely an action focused film.
Training sequences make up the bulk of the second act, and this is where we see the most authentic Wing Chun technique, particularly in the early sequence with Hung demonstrating ‘sticky hands’ and in the use of wooden dummies. Those dummies are used in one of the film’s best sequences, which has them on a rail system and Wong having to fight them back into their back of the room position.
Much of the authentic Wing Chun is thrown out when it comes to the last half hour. Driven by vengeance, the three remaining students from Leung Tsan’s school set out to hunt down Fung Hark On’s Master Mo and his three lieutenants (Lau Kar Wing, Lee Hoi Sang and Tiger Yang). Narrative, except for the narrative of the fights themselves, essentially ceases to matter at this point and what we’re watching is more like a spectacular series of displays of skill. Hung, as lead choreographer and director, brings the best out of everyone. Even Dean Shek, cast in his usual role of a wormy advisor, gets a comedic fight against Sammo himself, which again balances the silly and the skillful perfectly.
Hung simply understands how to show off his co-stars. It’s a pity that Cheung Man Ting doesn’t get to do more, but she acquits herself brilliantly. More notable is Casanova Wong. In some ways, he’s an odd fit for a contained style like Wing Chun, but Hung focuses on those movements in the training before allowing Wong more breadth and to use the kicks he was renowned for (in the Korean army he apparently earned the nickname The Human Tornado) in the final battles. It works story wise as, as with The Prodigal Son’s final fight, it plays as though the training has been the grounding, and now Cashier Hua is able to marry that with his own style. The often undervalued Fung Hark On is great here. His Mantis style is weird, but that combined with his distinctive face and villainous performance makes him a pretty formidable final opponent. I can’t pick a favourite fight here, but Sammo’s bamboo forest brawl might be the most stylishly shot, and one that points the way to some more visually spectacular work in The Prodigal Son.
Warriors Two might not quite have the strength of story and emotion that The Prodigal Son does, but it’s even more jam packed with action, and perhaps the more out and out entertaining of these two films. Both are essential viewing for kung fu devotees and novices alike.
There’s nothing to choose between these two transfers. Both films have received 2K restorations, and both look magnificent. This also goes for the Export version of the film. I watched the original Hong Kong version for the review of the film, but this one; five minutes shorter and only available in an English dub, has been treated with just the same care.
As on The Prodigal Son, we get two commentary tracks. Frank Djeng and Bobby Samuels talk over the Hong Kong cut, while Mike Leeder and Arne Venema cover the Export version. Again, these are fun and informative but not always screen specific. If you have them, it’s going to be worth holding on to the Hong Kong Legends DVDs for Bey Logan’s incredibly informative commentaries in addition to these.
The other video extra here is ported over from the HKL release, a 50 minute retrospective making of, with interviews with all the key players. It’s a great addition to a solid package.
Warriors Two will be released in a Eureka Video Double Feature Limited Edition Blu-ray set along with The Prodigal Son (a review of which can be found here) on the 24th of January, 2022.