Warriors Two / The Prodigal Son (1978 / 1981)
Director: Sammo Hung
Cast: Bryan Leung, Casanova Wong & Sammo Hung / Yuen Biao, Lam Ching-ying & Frankie Chan
Run time: 199 mins (both films combined)
Language: Cantonese (with English subtitles or dub)
Format: Blu-ray (2 Discs)
Release Date: 24th January 2022

Warriors Two / The Prodigal Son – film reviews

Jamie Havlin assesses two acclaimed kung fu classics directed by Sammo Hung.

2022 looks set to be another exciting year for Sammo Hung fans with Warriors Two and Prodigal Son out this month and Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon slated to follow in February.

In Warriors Two – which isn’t actually a sequel if you’re wondering – Hung and the splendidly named Casanova Wong (who also has a cool nickname: The Human Tornado) play two students of Master Tsan, an expert in the Southern Chinese kung fu style of Wing Chun.

Wong is Chan Wah, a cashier in the town’s bank. This is handy for the plot as the bank has just been bought over by a devious businessman called Mok who, backed by a gang of hoodlums, plans to take over the town of Foshan.

They first hatch a plan to kill the mayor, making his death look like an accident. Chan Wah overhears the plot being discussed and brings it to the attention of the weaselly official Advisor Yau (Dean Shek). This is unfortunate as Yau is involved with the gang and sets Chan Wah up to be killed. He only just survives Yau’s trap but is badly wounded and must go into hiding. When he discovers Mok’s men have murdered his mother in an attempt to draw him out, he vows to avenge her death. But first, he must sharpen his Wing Chun skills to have any chance of taking on the villains, along with his pal Fat Chun (Sammo Hung, of course) and Master Tsan’s niece Gam Fung.

The plot here was never going to win any prizes for originality. It’s another revenge tale with a Master/Pupil relationship that ends in a battle between good and evil but the action throughout is magnificent. Before and during the shoot, the actors undertook some intensive training in Wing Chun, and it shows. Sammo inventively shoots his training sequences with Chan Wah sparring with Fat Chun while blindfolded, learning a variety of techniques which include ‘sticky hands’ and even ‘the coiled dragon form’, which we might call a kick up the arse. He even learns how to crack open an olive pit using a six and a half point fisherman’s pole, although I’m not sure quite how necessary this really was.

The fights are even better. Bryan ‘Beardy’ Leung delivers as Tsan, especially during an epic brawl in a tearoom (that has a good twist, one of a number of them), while Casanova Wong demonstrates his considerable talents from the opening credits sequence onwards, culminating in him executing a breathtaking spin kick as the movie nears its climax, leaping over a table, rotating his body 360 degrees as he does so, to land a fearsome strike on his adversary. You may well find yourself rewinding to watch this again and again.

Warriors Two / The Prodigal Son – film reviews

Three years after filming Warriors Two, Sammo returned to the character of Leung Tsan, with Yuen Biao portraying a youthful version of him. A spoiled rich kid, Tsan initially believes himself to be a kick-ass fighting machine without realising that his father has been paying off a series of chancers to lose to him.

He learns a hard lesson in a clash with an opponent Leung Yee-tai (Lam Ching-ying), who refused to accept a bribe. An asthmatic who performs as a woman in travelling Peking Opera shows, he easily defeats Tsan in between rehearsing a song for the show, and lets him know what’s been going on behind his back, taunting him about his kung fu being ‘truly rubbish.’

Crestfallen, Tsan vows to dedicate himself to perfecting Wing Chun and prove himself to be a truly great martial artist. To achieve this aim, he must find a Master to serve an apprenticeship under and who better than Leung Yee-tai?

When the pair come across another spoiled rich kid who challenges Yee-tai to a fight, there are going to be unforeseen and brutally violent consequences for each of the men.

Warriors Two / The Prodigal Son – film reviews

Arguably, The Prodigal Son has a better reputation than Warriors Two among Hong Kong cinema fans, but I did prefer the earlier film. The comedic capers start promisingly here – the first thirty minutes or so are mostly terrific fun – but as the plot progressed, interludes like Sammo’s demonstrating his madcap kung fu calligraphy to his chubby daughter Twiggy sat uneasily, following on immediately from a chilling episode when ninjas gather for some late-night throat slitting.

The action choreography, however, is exquisite and deservedly won an award at the 2nd Hong Kong Film Awards, the burning flag scene being one of many highlights. Yuen Biao and Frankie Chan are both in cracking form, but Lam Ching-ying is best of all, his performance rivalling that of his more famous turn in Mr Vampire.

Disc One contains two fully restored versions of Warriors Two, the Hong Kong Theatrical Version (95 mins) and the International Export Version (90 mins), while the second disc contains a fully restored print of The Prodigal Son.

Special features in this limited edition set (3000 copies) include an O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Darren Wheeling; documentaries; brand new feature length audio commentaries by action cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema, and by Eureka regular Frank Djeng and actor Robert ‘Bobby’ Samuels; a reversible poster featuring original Hong Kong artwork and a collector’s booklet.

For more on the film, click here.

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All words by Jamie Havlin. Jamie has written a couple of short films screened on British TV and at international festivals. He regularly contributes to the glam rock fanzine Wired Up!

More writing by Jamie can be found at his Louder Than War author’s archive.

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