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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: June 6th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1978

Warriors Two (Arrow Video)

Overview -

Folks who were bowled over by Arrow's Shaw Brothers sets will no doubt take an interest in their release of Warriors Two, a first-rate 1978 Golden Harvest effort from martial arts director and star Sammo Hung. Kung fu fans with all-region players will recognize this as essentially the same release that UK label Eureka offered last year, in a double feature set with Hung's 1981 prequel The Prodigal Son (Arrow's US release of that film is due in the fall). But Arrow offers deluxe packaging in the house style as a consolation to disc buyers who stick to Region A only. The film itself is plot light and action heavy, with Hung as the somewhat bumbling third wheel to the titular two warriors played by "Beardy" Leung Kar-yan and Casanova Wong. For fans of the genre, this release comes Recommended.

After making his directorial debut with the intense The Iron-Fisted Monk and firmly solidifying his worth at Golden Harvest, Sammo Hung would be given more creative control behind the camera. Now able to inject more of his own personality, Hung would bring to life the more upbeat (yet only slightly less violent) Wing Chun cult classic: Warriors Two!

Cashier Hua (Casanova Wong, The Shaolin Plot) leads a simple life working for a local bank, the only complications resulting from trying to give life advice to his friend Fat Chun (Hung). When Hua discovers a murderous plot to overthrow the mayor and is left for dead, Chun urges him to protect himself by learning the formidable style of Wing Chun from master Leung Tsan (Knockabout's "Beardy" Leung Kar-Yan). As Hua's skill set grows, his proximity to Leung unknowingly lands him in the crosshairs of the treacherous scoundrels who previously sought to kill him…

Predating the Ip Man quadrilogy by three decades – as well as Hung's own The Prodigal Son (starring Yuen Biao as the younger incarnation of Leung Tsan) by a few years – Warriors Two is one of the earliest films to authentically portray the teachings of Wing Chun while also delivering the kind of kinetic and pulse-pounding fights synonymous with the name Sammo Hung!

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 2K RESTORATIONS from the original elements by Fortune Star of both the original HK Theatrical Cut and the shorter Export Cut
  • Original lossless Cantonese and Mandarin mono audio for the HK Theatrical Cut, plus lossless English mono for the export cut
  • Two choices of English dubbed audio for the HK Theatrical Cut: the original export dub mono (with Cantonese patches for missing scenes) and the newer 5.1 dub created for international DVD presentations
  • Optional English subtitles for the HK Theatrical Cut and English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing on the Export Cut
  • Commentary on the HK Theatrical Cut by martial arts cinema expert Frank Djeng & actor Bobby Samuels
  • Commentary on the Export Cut by action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema
  • Archival documentary The Way of the Warrior: The Making of Warriors Two, featuring interviews with stars Sammo Hung, Bryan "Beardy" Leung Ka-Yan, Feng Hak-An, Casanova Wong and Wing Chun master Guy Lai
  • Archival interview with Bryan "Beardy" Leung Ka-Yan
  • Original theatrical trailers
  • Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Joe Kim
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Joe Kim
  • Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing by Jonathan Clements and original press materials

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing by Jonathan Clements and original press materials
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
2.39:1
Audio Formats:
Two choices of English dubbed audio for the HK Theatrical Cut: the original export dub mono (with Cantonese patches for missing scenes) and the newer 5.1 dub created for international DVD presentations
Subtitles/Captions:
Optional English subtitles for the HK Theatrical Cut and English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing on the Export Cut
Release Date:
June 6th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Thirty years before Donnie Yen made Wing Chun an international phenomenon in the Ip Man series, Sammo Hung chose the lesser-known kung fu style as the hook for his third directing effort, Warriors Two (aka Master Tsang and Cashier Wah). Fictionalizing the exploits of 19th Century Wing Chun master Leung Tsang, the film is a snappy tale of mentorship and revenge that starts off fairly light but escalates to a level of brutality and bloodiness by the end that might catch unprepared viewers off-guard.

Korean actor Casanova Wong stars as Cashier Wah, a bank cashier who unwittingly discovers his boss Mok (Fung Hak-on) is a power-hungry villain intent on murdering the mayor of Foshan and making the town his own. When Wah mistakenly shares his discovery with one of his boss's lackeys, he is set up to be beaten by a gang of thugs. Wah narrowly escapes with his life, thanks to Fatty Chun (Sammo Hung), who takes the injured cashier to his master Tsang (Leung Kar-yan) for medical care. While the cashier is under the master's protection, Mok has his henchmen kill Cashier Wah's mother to smoke him out.

The predictably nicknamed Fatty tries to get his master to take Cashier Wah in as a student, but Master Tsang is reluctant to add fuel to the fire of the feud. After an amusing ruse, in which Fatty claims he will train Wah himself and makes a pointed effort to teach him poorly, Master Tsang's pride forces him to train the cashier properly.

What follows is a classic extended training sequence in which the stoic master breaks down the inexperienced student with task after task: catching a leaf as it drops to the ground, fighting mechanized wooden dummies, smashing olive pits with a bo staff. Casanova Wong does a really great job of playing the beleaguered student, always in over his head and suffering more than he'd like -- until he starts get the hang of it. "Beardy" Leung is a perfect foil, whose calm demeanor belies his character's ability to truly whup some ass.

The rest of the film plays out in a fairly expected fashion, with Cashier Wah making a plan enlisting the help of his Wing Chun comrades to best Mok's seemingly invincible crew. In a clever reversal, the plan goes awry when Fatty mixes up the names of Mok's henchmen and the students end up facing off with baddies who are essentially impervious to their technical specialties.

Director Hung came out of the same Peking Opera training that molded his better known pal Jackie Chan, and the action in Warriors Two has an innate inventiveness shared with Chan's films. Being made in 1978, the fighting sequences here feel like they exist in the transition from the theatrical "hit poses and shout" style popularized in '70s Hong Kong fight films and the more fluid choreography and camerawork that would rise to prominence in the 1980s. But Hung's confidence as a director, even this early in his career behind the camera, is wildly apparent.

The disc features two edits of the film: the 95-minute Hong Kong cut and the five-minutes-shorter export cut. The export cut mostly loses character moments in favor of getting to the action sooner. One sequence that gets snipped involves Hung's character Fatty getting duped out of the dumplings he's selling by a few scammers. One can argue it's not vital to the story, but its inclusion gives Fatty a character arc as interesting as Cashier Wah's by the film's end. To track him as he changes from a gullible loser to a more thoughtful warrior is quite satisfying.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Arrow's limited edition disc for Warriors Two comes with a double-sided poster featuring original Hong Kong poster art and a new design by Joe Kim. The same art options are used on the reversible sleeve, and the new Joe Kim design appears on the slipcover. A collector's booklet featuring vintage material and a new essay by Jonathan Clements is also included. The disc loads to a copyright warning, followed by the new Arrow logo, then a legal disclaimer, before ultimately bringing up the animated menu.

Video Review

Ranking:

The 2K restoration utilized for this AVC-encoded 2.39:1 1080p presentation is consistently clean and typically free from digital anomalies. The look comes across as organic, with well-resolved film grain. The color in most scenes is rich and nicely saturated, although certain sections come across as oddly pale and even a bit milky. Honestly, I didn't notice this when I was wrapped up in watching the movie, but it became more apparent when I started taking screencaps to accompany this review. In motion, I'd say this transfer is totally satisfying, even if it's not technically consistent upon closer examination.

Audio Review

Ranking:

The Hong Kong cut of the film comes with four audio options: the original Cantonese and Mandarin soundtracks, presented in DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono (with optional English subtitles); the original English dub for the export cut, with Cantonese used to fill in the inevitable gaps, also presented in DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono; and finally a newly cast 2005 English dub, mixed in DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround. None of the original soundtracks sound particularly state-of-the-art, and the 2005 dub sounded too constructed to my ears to be satisfying. While Cantonese is the default and is probably the more natural performance fit for the film, I found that mix to be distractingly trebly, so I stuck to Mandarin, which alternatively is probably a bit too bassy. Neither option is especially pretty but they get the job done.

The export cut is presented only in the DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono English dub from the '70s, with optional English SDH.

Special Features

Ranking:

Apart from the interview with “Beardy” Leung Kar-yan, all of these features can be found on Eureka's UK disc from last year. In fact, Eureka is name-checked multiple times on the audio commentaries.

  • 2 audio commentaries - On the Hong Kong cut, Eureka’s Frank Djeng talks to Robert “Bobby” Samuels both about his experiences working as a stuntman in Hong Kong and the folks he knows that are in the movie. On the Export Cut, Hong Kong action experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema offer some background and appreciation.
  • Way of the Warrior (HD, 45:37) - A 2005 doc hosted by Bey Logan. Sammo Hung and a number of the actors discuss the difficulties of making the film and expert Guy Lai discusses training the cast in the Wing Chun style martial arts used in the film.
  • Interview with Leung Kar-yan (HD, 5:15) - Credited as an "archival interview," this seems to be a DVD era featurette where Leung shares a few anecdotes about his experiences on set.
  • Cantonese Trailer (HD, 4:02)
  • English Trailer (HD, 3:31)
  • Image Gallery

Final Thoughts

Warriors Two is a creatively executed and unexpectedly tough kung fu flick. Fans of the genre will recognize plenty of familiar tropes at play but the film's many fight scenes are anything but by-the-numbers. Arrow's disc is sourced from the same source materials as Eureka's recent UK release, but the source is quite good and the supplements are informative and entertaining. (Needless to say, I am also psyched for Arrow's upcoming release of the follow-up film, The Prodigal Son.) Recommended.