Arrow Video: Warriors Two (1978) - Reviewed

Images Courtesy of Arrow Films
Arrow Video and Fortune Star have been gradually working through releasing all of the films starring and/or directed by Sammo Hung, churning out his Golden Harvest filmography including but not limited to John Woo’s Hand of Death and Hung’s own Knockabout, Millionaire’s Express and most recently Heart of Dragon.  Their latest effort concerns Sammo Hung’s 1978 Raymond Chow production, the Wing Chun martial arts actioner Warriors Two, a film which toned down the violence associated with Hung’s debut The Iron-Fisted Monk while amping up Hung’s own unique brand of fat guy stereotype buddy comedy shenanigans.  The result is a film that is widely considered to be among the more authentic and believable interpretations of the teachings of Wing Chun hand-to-hand combat onscreen. 

Cashier Hua (Casanova Wong) works humbly and quietly in the local bank with his few interactions in the world consisting of relaying advice to his bumbling but lovable pal Fat Chun (Sammo Hung) from getting scammed time and time again.  However, when Cashier Hua inadvertently uncovers a plot by mercenaries to try and overthrow the town mayor and rule with an iron fist over the community and is left for dead, Chun urges Hua to seek out the teachings of Wing Chun and learn from master Leung San (Leung Kar-Yan).  While secretly in training, those same forces who committed a coup de tat start realigning their sights on Leung San whom they learn is bestowing the teachings unto Hua.  Soon after an all-out war breaks out between the murderers and the few survivors left with the Wing Chun skills to fight them off.
Action packed, intense, brutal and occasionally goofy with Sammo Hung’s unique brand of humor mixed in with the fight sequences and elaborate choreography, Warriors Two further showcases Sammo Hung’s skills in choreography, acting and directing with acute attention to detail.  Lensed in panoramic widescreen by Enter the Fat Dragon cinematographer Kuan-Wei Liu (or Ricky Lau) with the trademark fast-zooms and whip pans characteristic of the Golden Harvest martial arts film and aided by soon-to-be Wong-Kar Wai composer Frankie Chan (Chungking Express), the look and sound of the film is lush with some truly wild period set pieces.  Mostly though this is a choreography kick-punch fighting film with some extended hand-to-hand combat sequences that defy the eye and overwhelm the senses with frenetic speed. 

One of the very first Wing Chun based Kung fu films, the others consisting later of Sammo Hung’s own The Prodigal Son and years later Donnie Yen’s Ip Man film series also starring Hung, Warriors Two further cemented Sammo Hung’s status as one of the key purveyors of martial arts filmmaking that didn’t fall under the Shaw Brothers umbrella.  Replete with Hung’s cheeky playful sense of humor and the graceful action choreography that the camera has a hard time keeping up with, the film is one of the quintessential Wing Chun films and also a very refreshing old-fashioned fighter film chock full of arresting set pieces and a very unique personality both in front of and behind the camera.  If nothing else, Warriors Two is a healthy alternative companion piece from Golden Harvest to the Shaw Brothers martial arts moviemaking empire with one of its most skillful craftsmen in the director’s chair. 

--Andrew Kotwicki