Warriors Two & The Prodigal Son: Two Films by Sammo Hung [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (3rd February 2022).
The Film

Warriors Two: The martial art of Wing Chun was developed by nun Ng Mui who taught it to one of her female students who in turn taught it to her husband when he needed to escape during one of the Chinese civil wars. The style was taught one-on-one and passed down from one pupil to another, eventually to Leung Tsan (The Postman Fights Back's Ka-Yan Leung) who established a medical practice in Foshan province with his niece Gao Fung (Hard Boiled Killers' Man-Ting Cheung ). Wary of the potential of misusing Wing Chun, he has taken on only rice dumpling seller Fat Chun (Encounters of the Spooky Kind's Sammo Kam-Bo Hung) as a pupil and taught him the basics. When young bank cashier Chan Wah (Duel to the Death's Casanova Wang) accidentally overhears the plans of bank owner Mok Kei (Last Hurrah for Chivalry's Hark-On Fung) – actually a criminal playing the long con with a well-established business – to take over the town with the help of bandits lead by Thunder (Game of Death II's Tiger Yang) by assassinating the mayor (Choe Mu Ung), he makes the mistake of confiding in Advisor Yao (Drunken Master's Dean Shek) who is in league with Mok. Yau arranges for Chan Wah to be ambushed by the bandits but he is rescue by Fat Chun. When Mok has Chan Wah's mother murdered to draw him out, the younger man swears vengeance but Fat Chun prevents him from rushing into danger. After Leung Tsan refuses to teach Chan Wah Wing Chun for revenge, Fat Chun attempts to teach him instead. Upon learning the mayor's disappearance and Mok's treachery, Leung Tsan changes his mind; Mok, however, has already been planning to get rid of Leung Tsan as the one village elder who might stand up to his plans.

Sammo Hung's third directorial effort following the more overtly comic The Iron-Fisted Monk and Enter the Fat Dragon, Warriors Two scales back the comedy to Hung's own antics including a scene in which he is scammed by a pair of rip-off men, one of whom is a nearly unrecognizable Eric Tsang (Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars) and Shek's treachery; and yet, in spite of Fat Chun not being one of the titular duo, it cannot be said that his character is any less emphasized – at least not the degree of Gao Fung – nor could the near equal footing of Hung, Wang, and Liang be considered ensemble casting. Hanging the real-life Shaolin fighting style of Wing Chun, its origins, and philosophy on the framework of a rather ordinary scenario, Hung strikes a better than usual balance between melodrama and comedy before the third act turns dark with some mean-spirited twists as Mok and the bandits play dirty without even acknowledging the superiority of the Wing Chun fighting style. Even the twist of Fat Chun getting the names of the bandits wrong and himself, Chan Wah, and Gao Fung being pitted against fighters whose abilities are not matched to their own is only played for a momentary chuckle and the blood soon flows freely. The climax is so dramatic that the final sight gag and jaunty turn in the music score is particularly jarring considering the loss of two compatriots. It is just as well that Hung decided that he could get more mileage out of the origins of Wing Chun.

The Prodigal Son: Born into a wealthy family and obsessed with martial arts, Leung Tsan (Dragons Forever's Biao Yuen) has earned the unofficial titles of "King of Kung Fu" and "Street Fighter" by picking fights with and beating locals. What he does not realize is that his parents (The Rape After's Yau-Hau Chan and The Sword of Swords' Ching Lin) have entrusted servant Yee Tung-choi (The Big Boss' Lung Chan) to make sure no harm comes to their son, which he does by bribing his master's opponents to lose their matches (some of whom exploit the practice for higher payouts). When three of Leung Tsan's friends attend a visiting Peking Opera troupe's performance, they are taken with the lead actress and force their way backstage. When she rebuffs them, they try to rape her, and she triply humiliates them with a savage beating, literally painting their ringleader as the clown he is, and revealing that she is in fact a man: Leung Yee-Tai (Mr. Vampire's Ching-Ying Lam). When Leung Tsan turns up to avenge his friends, he too is humiliated; first by the actor revealing the sham of the other man's fighting skills and his secret nickname of the "Street Briber", and then proving it by easily besting Leung Tsan in fighting. Leung Tsan receives further devastating proof when he challenges his private instructors (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin's Yuet-Sang Chin and The Invincible Armour's Hoi-Sang Lee) and they decide not to hold back since they are likely going to get fired.

A contrite Leung Tsan goes to Leung Yee-Tai and asks to become his student, but the actor rejects the frivolousness of his request. Determined, Leung Tsan has his father buy the opera troupe and he attempts to show his sincerity and dedication by working in the troupe. Unfortunately, a case of mistaken identity puts Leung Tsan on the receiving end of an attack by a Kung Fu master (Millionaires' Express' Wen-Tai Li) whose wife was bedded by the troupe's charismatic lead actor (Five Deadly Venoms' Pai Wei), and Leung Yee-Tai's on-stage fight with the man is witnessed by the audience including young Lord Ng (Carry on Pickpocket's Frankie Chan), a martial arts enthusiast who has had to travel beyond his home town in search of a worthy opponent. He invites the troupe to dinner and is insulted when Leung Yee-Tai refuses to spar with him and forced the match. When Leung Yee-Tai has an asthma attack, Lord Ng postpones their match until the actor recovers. What Lord Ng does not realize is that his father (The Super Inframan's Hsieh Wang) also does not want him to hurt; however, in order to protect his son's ego, he orders his son's attendants – including Dick Wei (The Seventh Curse) – to kill anyone who might best his son. Under cover of night, Lord Ng's attendants and twenty recruited ninjas massacre the troupe and set the theater on fire. Leung Yee-Tai is rescued by Leung Tsan and they escape the fire, with only Lord Ng believing them to be dead while his attendants secretly scour the countryside in search of them. The pair recuperate on the farm of Leung Yee-Tai's pompous brother Wong-Wah Bo (Sammo Hung) and his plump daughter "Skinny" (Wai-Hon Ho). Although Leung Tsan gets off on the wrong foot with Wong-Wah Bo, it is the older man who convinces his brother that Wing Chun will disappear if it is not passed on and Leung Tsan has demonstrated his loyalty and determination. Upon returning home, Leung Tsan arranges for Leung Yee-Tai to found a school. Visiting Lord Ng is surprised to learn that the two are alive but is as in the dark as the they are about the real cause of the fire as well as the lengths to which his attendants will go to protect his ego and their own lives.

A prequel to Warriors Two, The Prodigal Son only runs eight minutes longer than the former film but feels more epic in terms of narrative and production and even a somewhat nuanced look at the foibles of human nature. In spite of Hong Kong cinema's treatment of gay characters and some of Wong-Wah Bo's slurs at his brother, the film surprisingly makes little of the question of Leung Yee-Tai's sexuality – other than the perception of his opponents being doubly offended by being bested – in that it refreshingly does not feel the need to "redeem" the masculinity of either character or actor as a male who just plays female roles because that was how it was done in Peking Opera (and still is in certain types of roles). Leung Tsan and Lord Ng are similar and similarly deceived; the only thing distinguishing the two is not the extent of their servant's covert machinations but the fact that Ng has no qualms about seriously crippling his opponents while Leung Tsan is content for them to run off supposedly with their tails between their legs. Leung Yee-Tai seems to resist becoming Leung Tsan's master not because he fears the younger man will misuse his abilities so much as out of how he views him (and Lord Ng) as spoiled sons of wealthy lords as voiced in his head. Ng's explanation that he had no knowledge of what his servants had done as well as his attempt to make amends by punishing them is not enough to quell Leung Tsan's anger. The film verges into dark territory earlier than the first with the truly grisly and mean-spirited opera troupe massacre before a lighter middle-half – the whole of Hung's onscreen time – before the finale of multiple stabbings, a two-for-one decapitation, and a bone-crushing climax. Although the Leung Tsan of this film presumably matures into the one of Warriors Two, Hung undercuts the dramatic power of a defeated and dying foe's acknowledgement that Leung Tsan is the "Kung Fu King" by giving him a petulant retort that is as jarring in tone as the freeze frame of the former film. With The Prodigal Son bookended by the likes of Knockabout and Encounters of the Spooky Kind on one side and Winners & Sinners and Wheels on Meals on the other, this film out of the duo better demonstrates Hung's increasing ease with larger scale productions not just of the comic variety like Millionaires' Express but also the action drama of Eastern Condors.


Unreleased theatrically in the United States and not until 1982 in England in its slightly shorter export cut – and VHS in 1997 from Made in Hong Kong in its Hong Kong version – and, unlike its sequel/prequel, bypassed a Tai Seng import for a Fortune Star remaster in the early 2000s that appeared stateside from Fox and in the UK from Hong Kong Legends. Unlike a lot of Fortune Star titles, Warriors Two has not had a Hong Kong Blu-ray release – upscaled or otherwise – first turning up on Blu-ray in Scandinavian countries in a boxed set that only included the film's English dub – and apparently trimming the longer Hong Kong cut of the bits that were never dubbed rather than using the export cut – we have not seen that version but Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen Blu-ray comes from a brand new 2K restoration and includes separate encodes of the Hong Kong Theatrical Version (95:38) and the English export version (90:08). Unlike some of the earlier genuine HD restorations of Fortune Star material, the grading does not look "modern" in its blues and greens while the saturated blood pops (literally in one splattery bit involving a bear trap). Shots involving opticals look a tad coarser (I've been PM'd that the titles were digitally-recreated on textless backgrounds).

Better regarded than Warriors Two, The Prodigal Son was released in the UK theatrically in 1982 although not on VHS until 1998 on the iconic Made in Hong Kong label while the US got a Tai Seng laserdisc the same year and DVD in 1999. Fortune Star's anamorphic remaster turned up in the UK from Hong Kong Legends in 2002 and in the US from Fox in 2004. A reportedly poor upscale debuted on Blu-ray in Hong Kong in 2013, and that was followed by a Scandianavian edition as part of a boxed set (once again dropping all audio but the English dub option). Eureka's Blu-ray come from a 2K restoration of the original 35mm camera negatives, and the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen Blu-ray is very revelatory of the film's higher production values from the controlled conditions of the Shaw lot to the location work.


Warriors Two features Cantonese and English LPCM 1.0 mono tracks – with English subtitles for portions that were never dubbed into English – for the Hong Kong version while the export version features only English LPCM 1.0 audio. It is just was well that Eureka did not include the 5.1 remix from the DVD editions since it replaced a music cue and feature a distracting new foley effects track laid over the original. The mono tracks are the originals in this case – the 2.0 tracks on the DVDs were downmixes – and both tracks are dubbed (sync sound did not come to Hong Kong productions until the nineties). The Prodigal Son features Cantonese and English LPCM 1.0 mono tracks, and the latter includes song lyrics in Cantonese for the "musical" fight scene between Leung Tsan and Leung Yee-Tai (either export prints had subtitles for this bit or it was trimmed).

Warrior Two features English subtitles for the Hong Kong cut as well as a second track enabled by default with the English for onscreen text (the track is also included for the English track on the export version). The Prodigal Son includes full English subtitles for the Cantonese track and English subtitles for signs and song lyrics on the English track. The English subtitles are once in a while as anachronistic as the English dub, with Leung Yee-Tai calling a character a "smart aleck" on the English dub while his remarks are translated as "What a dick!"


Warriors Two features a pair of audio commentaries. The Hong Kong cut is accompanied by an audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) and martial artist/actor Robert “Bobby” Samuels in which the actor recalls falling in love with martial arts movies in Philadelphia and New York as the son of a stockbroker – they lived at the Dakota when John Lennon was assassinated – skipping school to watch films, studying martial arts and Cantonese in addition to acting, traveling to Hong Kong where he would have less competition as a black actor, and being introduced to Hung who changed the ending of The Gambling Ghost to create a role for him. They provide background on the lesser-known cast members including Shek (whose death last year was not announced by his family until recently), an unrecognizable Eric Tsang, actors recruited from the TVB network, and Samuels' recollections of working with Hung and Biao Yuen (who is credited but not easy to spot since he plays several stunt roles and doubled bits). The audio commentary by action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema accompanying the export cut is more film-focused as they discuss the streamlining of the film's plotting and momentum compared to The Prodigal Son despite that being the better film. They also have plenty of anecdotes about the cast – Casanova Wang is also the taekwondo instructor for the Chinese military and runs what the commentators call the "Korean equivalent of WWE" – the Category III credits of some of the supporting cast, as well as a hilarious anecdote about Ka-Yan Leung's reaction to the platitudes of Shaolin-trained rapper and Hong Kong film fan RZA who cast him in him in The Man with the Iron Fists.

In addition to a still gallery, the Hong Kong theatrical trailer (4:00, in Cantonese with English subtitles), and the international trailer (3:28), the disc also carries over the 2005 documentary"The Way of the Warrior: The Making of Warriors Two" (47:31) – presumably since disgraced Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan only figures into interstitial segments – in which Hung discusses the Wing Chun style, the equal importance of its philosophy to the fighting style, and being trained by Sifu Guy Lai who also appears along with Ka-Yan Leung and Hark-On Fung.

The Prodigal Son also features an audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) and martial artist/actor Robert “Bobby” Samuels and an audio commentary by action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema. On the former track, Djeng and Samuels discuss the returning actors in different roles, warm memories of Ching-Ying Lam who was extremely knowledgeable about Wing Chun by the time Samuels met him, the actor's Peking Opera training (as well as the usual remarks about how Hung and Jackie Chan's recollections about their childhood training is tantamount to child abuse), the scarcity of lead roles for Biao Yuen who was dubbed by the same dubber used for Jackie Chan here – as well as noting that he fights himself by doubling for Frankie Chan during their fight scene – while Djeng also provides background on the Peking Opera, the war god Lord Guan – worshipped by police and the triad alike – and some of the wordplay lost on western viewers. On the second track, Leeder and Venema touch upon some of the same points but also note that actor/composer Frankie Chan was actually the "music selector" of appropriated film scores to use as library tracks and that the British Made in Hong Kong label emerged when a British music label contacted Golden Harvest about an illegally-used track and they resolved the issue by giving them the British rights to the film. They also discuss the difficulty of filming Wing Chun, Biao Yuen's apparent lack of charisma in traditional genre fare with some exceptions, other credits of screenwriter Barry Wong – who died on the set of Hard Boiled – including Crazy Safari which is better known as "The Gods Must Be Crazy III" and the two subsequent sequels that brought star N!xau to Hong Kong, as well as Mr. Vampire and Golden Harvest's attempted English-language remake "Demon Hunters" with Wah Yuen replacing Ching-Ying Lam and featuring American actors Jack Scalia and Michele Phillips that was shut down during production.

The disc also features "Wing Chun 101" (29:59), an interview with Sifu Alex Richter who founded a Wing Chun school in Manhattan and gives Djeng a tour of it while recalling his love of Hong Kong martial arts movies and getting to meet Hung on a trip to Hong Kong with his parents as a teenager. "The Heroic Trio" (28:01) features Hung, Yuen Biao, and Frankie Chan. Hung discusses the difficulty of filming Wing Chung as well as working on films as both director and action director while Biao recalls his Peking Opera training and doubling for Chan in their climactic fight scene in reverse angles, and Chan discusses working with Hung as a director. In "Life Imitating Art" (28:40), producer and Wing Chung consultant Guy Lai discusses the style, its one-to-one teaching style, and the variations on the origin story in between demonstrations by Sifu Austin Goh and Jude Poyer.

Alternate English credits (1:44), a stills gallery, as well as the Hong Kong theatrical trailer (4:27), international trailer (2:13), and Tai Seng U.S. home video trailer (1:46) round out the package.


The limited edition pressing of 3,000 copies comes with an O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Darren Wheeling, a reversible poster featuring original Hong Kong artwork, and a 35-page collector's booklet illustrated with rare archival imagery and featuring new writing by James Oliver; a reprint of Frank Djeng’s original liner notes for The Prodigal Son from the US laserdisc release; and reprints of Warriors Two's original sales notes and theatrical flyer. In the essay "Wing Chun Hustle" Sammo Hung Steps Up in Warriors Two", Oliver cites the film as Hung's "first masterpiece" not because of the conventional narrative but due to the action, the historical background of Wing Chun, the real life Leung-Tsan and "Change-giver Wah" (Fat Chun was his own invention), Ka-Yan Leung ability to copy techniques, and the elements of humor. In "A Fight at the Opera - Performance, Perfectionism: The Prodigal Son", Oliver notes the innovations that Hung brought to his second Wing Chun film, and how his experience as a director in the years between the films benefitted it visually and in terms of the coverage and editing of the fight scenes, as well as the maturity of characterization, the chemistry between the leads, as well as revealing that the film is credited to Barry Wong but the film's gags are the contribution of Wong Jing. The booklet also includes "The Ultimate Wing Chun Trip!" liner notes from the Tai Seng laserdisc by Frank Djeng.


Bookended by comic vehicles focusing on Sammo Hung's girth and more ambitious Chinese New Year all-star films and Jackie Chan vehicles, the duo of Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son - particularly the latter – demonstrate Hung's increasing ease with larger scale productions not just of the comic variety like Millionaires' Express but also the action drama of Eastern Condors.


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