Jet Li shined as martial arts master Wong Fei-Hung in Tsui Hark’s classic Once Upon a Time in China. For this sequel, the film delves further deeper in the mind of Wong as he has learned and accepted the ideas of Western influence in China and now seeks justice against those who want to oppose the ever-changing world.
In 1895, Wong Fei-Hung, Aunt 13, and Wong’s student Leung Foon head to Canton to attend a medical convention. When Wong arrives, he is introduced to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and his friend Luke. While the duo have accepted Western influences in China, there holds a group who will do whatever it takes to make sure China goes backwards instead of progressing to the future.
The group in question is the White Lotus Clan, led by the evil Priest Kung. When they begin to terrorize Canton, Wong and Sun decide to intervene. Sun is revealed to be the leader of a rebellion and that does not bode well with not only the White Lotus Clan, but the local government, led by Governor Chung and his top officer, Commander Lan.
Jet Li once again shines on the screen as the prolific folk hero Wong Fei-Hung in this exciting sequel that is proof that a second film can be just as good as its predecessor. Rosamund Kwan returns to the role of Aunt 13, Fei-Hung’s potential love interest who helped open Wong’s mind to the world of Western influences. It is great seeing Wong here from a man whose views clearly have changed as he has embraced Western influence in China thanks to Aunt 13’s help.
While fans would have loved to have seen Yuen Biao reprise his role as Leung Foon, Max Mok makes for a suitable replacement. Mok, a veteran action film star himself, provides much of the comic relief of the film yet when it comes time to fight, proves his own as quite a fighter. Mok would go on to reprise the role from this installment to Once Upon a Time in China V.
As with the previous installment, Wong has more than one villain to take on. The first is White Lotus clan leader Kung, played by the future “Club Foot”, Xiong Xin-Xin. As Kung, Xiong breathes evil and does quite well in the fight department. However, the best fights come from the second villain, Commander Lan. Lan is played by the awesome Donnie Yen, a former protege of fight choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping. Yen and Li engage in two amazing weapons fights, the last being the best fight of the film as a whole.
With its combined fictionalized storyline and true depiction of famous leader Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Once Upon a Time in China II is truly one of the best sequels to hit the screens. Jet Li once again shows off his impressive skills as famed master Wong Fei-Hung and his fights with Donnie Yen are truly worth watching.
WFG RATING: A-
Golden Harvest Pictures presents a Film Workshop production. Director: Tsui Hark. Producers: Tsui Hark and Ng See-Yuen. Writers: Tsui Hark, Charcoal Tan, and Hanson Chan. Cinematography: Arthur Wong. Editing: Marco Mak, Angie Lam, and Andy Chan.
Cast: Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok, Donnie Yen, David Chiang, Xiong Xin-Xin, Zhang Tielin, Yen Shi-Kwan, Leung Yat-Ho, William Ho, Paul Fonoroff, Mike Miller, Dion Lam, Kent Chow.