Once Upon a Time in China 2 (Wong Fei Hung II: Naam yi dong ji keung) (1992)

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Released 16-Jun-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Bey Logan (Hong Kong Cinema Expert)
Gallery-Photo
Biographies-Cast-Jet Li-Animated Biography Showcase
Theatrical Trailer-2
Interviews-Cast-Jet Li , Donnie Yen
Trailer-Hong Kong Legends
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 107:28
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (89:50) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hark Tsui
Studio
Distributor
Fortune Star
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Tin-suen Chan
Cheung Tan
Hark Tsui
David Chiang
Rosamund Kwan
Jet Li
Xin Xin Xiong
Yee Kwan Yan
Donnie Yen
Paul Fonoroff
Ka-Kui Ho
Siu Chung Mok
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Johnny Njo
Richard Yuen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Wong Fei Hung (Jet Li) travels to Canton in 1895 with his Aunt Yee (Rosamund Kwan) and disciple Leung Foon (Max Mok). There to give a lecture on Chinese medicine at the Western academy, Wong is drawn into the conflict between the Westerners and the White Lotus sect, a group of Chinese nationalists who want to drive the foreigners out. He meets Dr Sun Yat Sen, a revolutionary who is being sought by the Government, and whose efforts at peaceful social changes are being stymied by the more aggressive tactics of the White Lotus. Wong finds himself right in the middle of the conflict, and must deal with the White Lotus himself, as well as the corrupt General Lan (Donnie Yen).

    This sequel to the first of Tsui Hark's Wong Fei Hong series is actually better than the original. Rather than being full of goofy humour and martial arts, this film has more of a narrative and is driven as much by character development as by action. The growing relationship between Wong and his 13th Aunt is very subtly realised and the comedy relief, mainly through the agency of Max Mok (taking over the role from Yuen Biao), is unusually restrained. What martial arts sequences there are still have the ubiquitous wire-work and consequent loss of believability, but they feel more integrated into the movie than in the previous episode. This would be in no small measure due to the influence of martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo Ping. The pole fight between Jet Li and Donnie Yen is very impressive indeed.

    Also appearing in the film as a colleague of Sun Yat Sen is veteran Shaw Brothers star David Chiang, looking older and more heavy-set than in his heyday of twenty years before. Yee Kwan Yan, who played Wong's nemesis Iron-Robe Yim in the first episode, appears as a different character in this one.

    What is also impressive about the film is the care with which it has been put together. It does not feel like one of the slapdash potboilers which were pumped out during the final years of British rule in Hong Kong. The art direction is excellent and the cinematography is superb. The film is very entertaining and well worth seeing more than once.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is quite sharp and detailed. It does not look like pristine materials were used for the transfer, but it has been cleaned up nicely. There is however a slightly soft appearance to a lot of the film. Contrast levels in brightly lit scenes are fine, but in darker sequences and indoors there is a loss of shadow detail, with some graininess apparent. There is also some mild low level noise.

    Colours are mostly okay, with much of the production design being on the brownish side. There is a tendency for transfers of Hong Kong films to be more brown in Western releases than in the Chinese versions, which are transferred with a green tinge to the colour. This is no exception. Frankly, I did not notice any significant colour problems while watching the film, but some comparative screencaps I have seen do show up the differences - see the region comparison section below.

    Artefacts were relatively few. Some mild edge enhancement is noticeable, and there are occasional flecks.

    Optional English subtitles are provided. These are in a clear white font and all of the dialogue seems to be translated. I did not notice any spelling or grammatical problems.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change placed at 89:50 and only slightly disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Audio is provided in Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, with an optional English dubbed version. Not surprisingly, I chose the former for reviewing the film.

    This is a remix of the original, and while it is inauthentic it is also unobjectionable. Most of the audio is heard from the front channels, with occasional effects coming from the rear channels. There are virtually no low frequency effects, and the subwoofer stayed silent for almost the entire running time.

    Dialogue is clear and distinct. The audio track is as usual completely dubbed, but there are no problems with mismatched acoustics. The Cantonese-speaking actors have been dubbed quite well, but the European actors have been dubbed badly, with horrible lip-sync.

    The music score features the famous Wong Fei Hong theme in bucketloads, plus there is a brief bit of Mozart.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

    The usual animated lead-in to the menu, featuring snippets of scenes from the film.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The usual generic audio which has no relation to the film, with animated backdrops from the film.

Audio Commentary-Bey Logan (Hong Kong Cinema Expert)

    Another detailed commentary by Bey Logan, who talks enthusiastic about the film, the people behind it and the backstory to it. As usual, well worth a listen.

Gallery-Photo

    A series of stills from the film.

Biographies-Cast-Jet Li-Animated Biography Showcase (33:25)

    A long scrolling text biography accompanied by American Voice-Over Man. You might find it better to fast-forward through this and read it. A filmography is included at the end.

Theatrical Trailers (5:18)

    Two trailers, one for the original release of the movie in Hong Kong and the other a promotional clip for Hong Kong Legends' release.

Interviews-Cast-Jet Li , Donnie Yen (26:23)

    Interviews with the two stars. Both are in English, the one with Jet Li being poorly videotaped from a post-screening speech he gave. His English is a little difficult to understand.

Trailers-City Hunter, Project A, Mr Vampire, The Big Boss, The Young Master (8:08)

    Trailers from other Hong Kong Legends releases.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This release is a port of the UK Region 2 release from Hong Kong Legends.

    The US Region 1 release is to be avoided. It contains two versions of the film, one of which is an English dubbed and recut version, with Cantonese and Mandarin surround tracks. All of this is crammed onto a single dual-layered disc, with the result that there are significant compression artefacts as well as severe edge enhancement.

    From Hong Kong based IVL comes a box set featuring the first three films in the series, none of which are available separately. In comparison to the Region 3, the Region 4 misses out on:

By contrast, the Region 3 misses out on:

    A screencap comparison of the Region 3 and Region 2 shows that the former has sharper and more detailed video and a more realistic colour palette, so I would have to recommend the Region 3. However, few people will be disappointed with the Region 4.

Summary

    An excellent entry in the Wong Fei Hong series.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is good.

    A slew of extras, though not as big a slew as usual.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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