To some degree, it’s the basic premise of the vast majority of kung-fu flicks ever made; man seeks vengeance, man trains with “The Master” for most of the film before man defeats the enemy, usually avenging The Master’s untimely death to boot. But, as with kung-fu itself, it’s style that counts. In Warriors Two, we see Chan The Banker (I said BANKER! He’s played by the wonderfully named Casanova Wong) teaming up with [amiably dumb] Porky (Sammo Hung… who else?) to defeat the evil Businessman Mo (Fong Hak-on), who has had Chan’s mother offed after he overheard Mo’s plans to kill the mayor and take over the town. Porky gets Chan in with Master Tsang (Leung Kar-yan), doctor, herbalist and deadly fighting machine, who (reluctantly at first) teaches him the ways of Wing Chun Kung-Fu, possibly the greatest (for the purposes of this movie, anyway) kung-fu style ever!
Chan’s rise to the top is hard – it must take him at least a week or two to perfect his style. He must learn various positions, attack various pressure points, fight against wooden machines and split nut kernels with a staff. But by the time he is ready, Master Tsang has also been murdered by Mo’s mob – Chan and Porky, together with sexy swordswoman Phoenix, to take their revenge.
So, it’s not a particularly original story – so what’s Warriors Two got going for it? Well, Sammo Hung for one thing, who not only stars in but also wrote and directed this fabulous film. As an actor, Sammo is great, constantly overplaying his character to an absurd degree (as do most of the other characters actually, some even more so – and all helped along by that crackpot seventies dubbing. Come on, you don’t seriously watch kung-fu films with friggin’ subtitles, do you?!) and, as writer, has given himself some of the best lines. When trying to teach his friend Chan, for example, he explains that the Crazy Horse style “helps keep haemorrhoids away.” His finest moment comes after killing an deadly opponent: “Don’t even think about haunting me, or I’ll beat you to death again!” But this element of comedy he introduces to Warriors Two is of some debate amongst kung-fu fans – some dislike this light-hearted approach claiming that it blunts the film’s effect somewhat although this isn’t really true – quite the opposite in fact. Hung’s slapstick humour adds a certain craziness to the fighting and, more importantly, eliminates the tedium that sometimes pervades martial arts flicks when the fists aren’t flying.
Not that that occurs very often, as Warriors Two is pretty much jam-packed with face-smashing, leg-breaking, head-busting and most other forms of kung-fu violence from beginning to end. And it’s all brilliantly choreographed, and completely over the top too, adding to the surrealism that’s present throughout the film. One example is Chan punching-in a opponent’s pressure points – the bad guy is covered in purple polka-dots before Chan destroys him with a very painful looking death-kick to the balls. It’s then revealed how Chan managed to achieve this nut-cracking bollock devastation; by practising on a pear! Gulp! Many of these fighting moves actually look quite painful, more to the perpetrator than the victim. Even after attending yoga classes for twenty-odd years, you probably couldn’t achieve this eye-watering level of contortion. Seriously – there’s more twisting going on here than at a rockabilly gig in a bagel factory. And speaking of twisting, that reminds me of the village inn – although this is meant to be a period piece, the innkeeper’s choice of music makes the place sound more like Arnold’s Diner than a some tenth century Chinese boozer!
Special make-up effects are, of course, terrible. Sammo wears, for some reason, a horrible, horrible, stick-on slaphead – it goes very well with his stick-on pony-tail, also worn by all the other male members of the cast, to compliment their stick-on moustaches, beards and sideburns. One member of the cast wears a choking set of wooden-looking false teeth – another seems to have had his forehead built up with modelling clay, also a good method of simulating scars and bruises. And all this is accompanied by a fairly liberal sprinkling of bright red Dulux gore, against a backdrop of obviously-indoor outdoor sets. It all helps add to that old-school kung-fu ambience.
Apparently, Warriors Two is “arguably the best kung-fu film ever made!”, a claim that is… well, arguable! But those four bars and gong-bonging of the opening Golden Harvest logo should be enough to convince you this is a treat. Perhaps it would be best to let GH themselves modestly sum it up for you, courtesy of their very own trailer: “It’s authentic! It’s clearly shown! It’s greatly entertaining!” I couldn’t have put it better myself!
Hong Kong born actor, producer and director and one of the best known figures in Hong Kong cinema. Hung's large frame belies a formidable martial arts ability, and he's best known for his collaborations with Jackie Chan during the 1980s and more recently for his US TV show Martial Law.