Director: Chang Cheh
Starring: Fu Sheng, Chen Kuan Tai
With the Shaolin Temple destroyed and its followers on the run, the treacherous Manchu set about hunting down the survivors. Hung (Chen Kuan Tai), a senior student has become the de facto leader because of his skill and leadership qualities. While being hunted he comes into conflict with Fang (Fu Sheng), another skilled Shaolin student who was outside the monastery and has no knowledge of the temple’s destruction. Tricked into believing that Hung is a criminal, he unknowingly delivers his comrade into the arms of the Manchu. When the truth is revealed, Fang must face his guilt and cooperate with the remaining Shaolin members to rescue Hung and defeat the powerful Manchu.
Chang Chen directs this fairly straightforward kung fu film with expert choreography from Lau Kar Leung and Tang Chia. It’s film that clearly references the ideals of unity in the face of deception and avarice of violence, common in many films of the era. The action is solid and frequent; nary a span of 7 minutes goes by without a punch or kick thrown and the finale is an extended sequence featuring long cuts, many moves, and Fu Sheng and Chen Kuan Tai in a great team-up. It’s a consistently serious ajd hard style film that has all the elements of a Chang Chen fight film.
Chen takes a heck of a lot of punishment and turns in exhausting performance as Hung. He’s almost superhuman, even for a martial arts picture, and seems to have a comic book characters’ worth of stamina and bravery. Fu Sheng’s Fang is cocky and self-sure that when his error is discovered, he’s willing to give his own life for Hung’s. Showing great piety to his brethren, the lengths he goes for Hung demonstrate immense honor and some growth for his formerly carefree character.
The soundtrack is quite good; with an instantly recognizable theme and memorable incidental music and cues. It’s classic horns and strings and a huge part of the Shaw Bros. experience. Sets are typical of the studio though a number of outdoor shoots were done for the opening scenes as well as for the battle heavy finale. Characters beside Fu and Chen are somewhat forgettable if not for the costuming; the villainous Red Robe Four are particularly memorable for their unique fighting styles and banded arms.
In the end, Heroes Two is a very good and highly regarded entry in Chang Chen’s and Shaw Bros.’ extensive bodies of work. Heroic bloodshed and nearly nonstop fighting will keep you engaged and the sheer talent, in front of and behind the camera, guarantees a film that will satisfy those looking for a kung fu film with good pedigree and execution.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: The Master, Kid With the Golden Arm, and/or King Boxer