Once Upon a Time in China II (1992)
Reviewed by: Arshadnm6 on 2005-04-13
Summary: A better and shorter sequel, with plenty of well choreographed action sequences!!!
The follow-up to Once Upon a Time in China features Wong Fei-Hong (again played by Jet Li) battling the White Lotus Cult, bent on expelling all foreigners from China through spreading their provocative rumours and enlisting new members for their ever-growing cult. While at a reputed medical convention in Canton, Wong Fei-Hong meets and befriends Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (Zhang Tie Lin). However, this places him in direct confrontation with the local magistrate (Donnie Yen from ‘Iron Monkey’ and ‘Hero’), who are trying to quash the growing rebellion led by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. In light of these events, Wong Fei-Hong teams with Dr. Sun Yat-Sen to assist the rebellion’s cause, by destroying the troublesome evil White Lotus Cult and its head priest (Xiong Xin-Xin from ‘Once upon a time in China and America’, ‘Double Team’ and ‘The Blade’) under the protection of the local magistrate. This movie also brings back Aunt Yee (Rosamund Kwan from ‘Mighty Baby’ and ‘The scripture with no words’) and Leung Fu (now played by Max Mok Siu-Chung from ‘Pedicab Driver’, ‘Fire Dragon’ and ‘Star Runner’) as the trusty student.

The movie is well thought through and captures the sense of urgency and chaos better than any other part in the series. Furthermore, the atmosphere is very claustrophobic as would be expected in a thriving town like Canton and filled with a settling atmosphere throughout. Moreover, the character development is more limited in this part compared to its predecessor and enables the viewers to focus on the few main actors available on-screen. Also, there is more frequent and better quality martial arts on offer in this movie compared to the earlier part as it was choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping. Furthermore, Tsui Hark invests a lot effort into leaving ample space for confrontations to occur in fight scenes by making it known to everyone from the start who the main villains are and showing-off their fighting skills before the final showdown (especially in the case of Donnie Yen). The role of the main villain suits Donnie Yen because of his emotionless facial expressions and is played very well by him. Unfortunately, he does try to offer some personality for the character (i.e. by forming friendship and trying to reason with the cause of Jet Li’s Wong Fei-Hong) which is unnecessary since the movie already carries heavy overtones of anti-foreign and tragic hero sentiment throughout it.

The length of the movie is correct and leaves enough space for some sub-plots but unfortunately no twists again, as it is a general cliché for most of the movie in the series. This action-adventure has some new elements of comedy and romance included and builds on the first part reasonably well as regards the character development (especially as with new-comer Max Mok Siu-Chung playing Leung Fu). This movie has everything except creativity as it capitalises on the success of other similar movies at its time, i.e. ‘Iron Monkey’ and the ‘Fong Sai Yuk I and II’ series.

Overall, this movie is well-crafted with a lot of painstaking effort invested into it but does not deliver anything new except story progression. Moreover, the villains are always over-the-top and never down to earth to challenge the heroes in an intellectually and double-crossing manner, i.e. they portray too much or too little respect towards Jet Li’s Wong Fei-Hong.

Overall Rating: 7.7/10
Reviewer Score: 8