[box cover]

Once Upon a Time in China 2

With Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon proving the Hong Kong kung fu aesthetic has crossed over in a big way, the Tiger's tail has brought us the now-prevalent Hong Kong cash-in onslaught. Though this was prefigured by Jackie Chan and John Woo, the reissuing of popular Hong Kong action films has begun in earnest, and those who had searched for many HK titles in small shops, looking for their beloved Tai Seng logo, can now find many of these same titles in their local Blockbuster, even though most of the video versions are dubbed for the lowest common denominator. Thankfully, the DVD revolution solves this problem — or, at least can avoid it — with the multi-language option providing both an original language track for the connoisseur and a dubbed track for the layman. Fans rejoice, as Columbia's Once Upon a Time in China 2 ups the ante, not only including the original Mandarin and Cantonese tracks, but remastered versions of both in Dolby Digital 5.1, alongside a dubbed version. Thankfully Once Upon a Time in China 2 deserves such treatment, continuing with the brilliant combat and compelling story of the first film. Jet Li reprises his role as Chinese folk hero and martial artist Dr. Wong Fei Hung, who is accompanied by Aunt Yee (Rosamund Kwan, also from the first film) to a medical conference, only to be confronted by the murderous Chinese nationalist group The White Lotus. As the Lotus hate Aunt Yee's outside ways, and with the local police force at best ambivalent to brewing revolution, Wong finds himself in the middle, defending Aunt Yee and a bunch of little kids and white folk. Though plots in kung fu films are arguably unnecessary, director Tsui Hark is known as the Spielberg of Hong Kong for a reason, and — while the action is hopping — he never lets the fighting be unnecessary. Li shines under Hark's direction, displaying the kung fu that made him famous and the charisma that let him cross over to the U.S. film market, with the action nothing short of breathtaking (choreographed by Crouching Tiger's Yeun Wo Ping). Towards the end of the film Li battles the leader of the White Lotus in what seems to be an unstoppable fight, only to have that fight trumped by the next one. China 2 delivers the fix that action-addicts jones for, proving to be the equal of its predecessor — a rare feat unto itself. However, as for Columbia TriStar's DVD, there are small problems. The subtitles aren't perfect, and many will be left wondering why Kwan's character is referred to as Aunt 13 (we were). That noted, the film is presented in an anamorphic transfer (2.35:1), and the original language tracks in discrete 5.1 more than make up for any small deficiencies. Home video trailer, three bonus trailers, and (included as a bonus feature) the dubbed version (in 2.0 mono and with the running time a minute shorter due to different credit sequences). Keep-case.
—DSH



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