Fong Sai Yuk II
The first Jet Li Fong Sai Yuk film was extremely
popular (came in 5th at the box office for 1993) and so in true Hong Kong
style a sequel was on the screen within a few months. If the Matrix had
been made in HK, we would already be up to part 4 by now! Though the sequel
also did quite well (11th for the year), it has generally not been met
with anything near the rapture of the original.
It certainly does show some of the faults of a
rushed process – a ragged narrative and some odd sub-plots that really
don’t add much to the film – but it is still overall highly entertaining
with some simply jaw opening wire fu scenes. One of the things that I actually
enjoyed more about this film is that Fong Sai Yuk shows us his dark side.
In the first film, Fong is almost too cheerful – too innocent – but here
he grows up and learns to hate – and becomes extremely vengeful.
Fong Sai Yuk has been portrayed on the screen
since the early days of film. He and Wong Fei Hung are likely the two most
enduring characters in HK movies and each generation has come up with a
new slant on the characters. Fong was apparently a true person who lived
in the 18th century but very little is actually known about him and so
filmmakers have a lot of room for interpretation. According to Bey Logan
in his book Hong Kong Action, Fong was from Canton and learned his martial
arts from his mother. In a martial arts match at the age of fourteen he
killed his opponent and Logan goes on to write that Fong seems to have
died in his twenties. Of course, in many of the Fong Sai Yuk films he is
one of the Shaolin monks who fight against the Manchus and was present
at the burning of the Shaolin monastery. Director Chang Cheh believes that
Fong Sai Yuk was beheaded by the Ching rulers.
The very first kung fu movie made in Hong Kong
was a "Fang Shi Yu" movie "Fang Shiyu Battle in The Boxing Ring" produced
by Sammo Hung's grandparents in 1938. Afterwards there followed a series
of films based on the character that continued until the late 1960s. Then
in the 1970s Alexander Fu Sheng often portrayed him in some of Chang Cheh’s
films. Some of these are Heroes Two, Shaolin Temple and Men from the Monastery.
Jet Li and Corey Yuen take Fong Sai Yuk out of the Shaolin ranks and instead
put him into the Red Flower Triad Society. Of course. in those days the
triads were patriotic groups that secretly formed to re-establish the Ming
dynasty. In a bit of humor – Jet Li is given the rank of 49 in the society
– the lowest rung on the totem pole and in some modern day triad films
this number is applied with the same meaning. A year after the Jet Li films,
Fong Sai Yuk was to return to the Shaolin ranks in Ringo Lam’s Burning
This film takes up right after the previous film
ends – Jet and Ting Ting (Michelle Reis) have joined up with the Red Flower
Society that is headed by Mr. Chen (Adam Cheng). Vying for power is the
bald headed villainous looking Yu (Chi Cheung-hua) who is looking for any
reason to overthrow the virtuous Chen and turn the group into a ring of
thieves. The opportunity comes in a secret message being carried by Samurais
from Japan that incriminates Chen. Chen sends Jet to get it, but after
failing Jet is then ordered to seduce the Governor’s daughter (Amy Kwok)
in order to steal the message. Clearly, Ting Ting is not pleased with this
set-up. Throughout the film Josephine Siao is on hand to get her son out
of hot water – but in the end it is her life that literally hangs in the
balance as Jet must turn away from innocence and become a merciless killer.
Much of the first hour is light if not effective
comedy - though there are three terrific action pieces that are very pleasing
and wonderfully visual. The fight on the river rafts against the Samurais
is very clever – the incredible contest for Kwok’s hand may seem similar
to one that takes place in the first film – but is still an astounding
choreographed and epic scene with hundreds of men being used as human ladders
and bridges to enable her suitors to reach the top of the tower.
But it is really at the hour mark when this film
totally kicked in for me. With his mother tenuously balanced on a teeter-totter
set of jumbled benches – with a noose around her neck – Jet grimly puts
on the weapons of death and goes to face men that he once considered brothers.
He puts a blindfold around his eyes – so that he can kill without remorse
– and walks into the waiting mass of naked swords. The killing begins.
My rating for this film: 7.5
Distributed by Universe
The transfer is fine - could be better
-some of the dark scenes look quite soft and murky.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
There are 8 chapters
The subtitles are Chinese or English.
There are trailers for this film + Fong Sai
Yuk and Tai Chi Master.
Star Files - Jet Li and Corey Yuen.