Director Chang Cheh begins his Shaolin Cycle with this solid kung fu actioner about a band of fighting Ming Dynasty loyalists branded as enemies of the state and driven underground following the burning of the Shaolin Temple by Qing Dynasty officials. Due to a misunderstanding, Shaolin kung fu prodigy Fong Sai-yuk (Alexander Fu Sheng) is duped into helping Qing agents to capture leading Shaolin rebel Hung Hei-gun (Chen Kuan-tai). Upon discovering his mistake, Sai-yuk teams up with the remaining rebels to free Hei-gun before his planned execution. Plotting to stop them is General Che Kang (Zhu Mu), a formidable Tibetan kung fu master who commands an army of fighters including four deadly Tibetan llamas. This is the first production of Chang’s Film Company, a production house Chang set up in Taiwan. Shaw Brothers brought it to theaters alongside Chang’s short film THREE WAYS OF HUNG FIST which features the same leads in a martial arts demonstration. While not as epic, gruesome or outlandish as many of Chang’s other martial arts offerings, the film possesses high-grade fight choreography courtesy of Hong Kong’s leading action directors of the day, Lau Kar-leung and Tang Chia. Of note, the film (and its companion short) introduced audiences to the Hung Fist style of kung fu and directly led to the explosive popularity of “shapes” fighting that dominated martial arts movies in Hong Kong for the next decade. Leads Chen Kuan-tai and Fu Sheng stand out with precise and powerful screen fighting execution adapted from real Hung Fist forms. Fu Sheng, in his debut, dominates the screen with a killer combination of rascally charm, boundless energy and dynamic fighting ability. Bruce Tang and Wong Ching provide quality supporting roles as fighters on opposite sides of the conflict. On the downside, the film is hampered by lackluster venues, a slow-moving plot, a forgettable lead villain, and too much repetition in the film’s overlong, yet well-arranged final fight.
HEROES TWO is available on DVD from Crash Cinema’s Tokyo Shock label.
Revised on January 23, 2012.REVIEW: Heroes Two (1974),
Chang Cheh • Chang's Film Co. • Fong Sai-yuk • Genre: Kung Fu • Genre: Shapes • Heroes Two (1974) • Hung Hei-gun • shaolin temple • Shaw Brothers