Also with: Michelle Lee, Amy Kwok, Cory Yuen, Chan Lung.
(Cantonese & Mandarin dialogue)
Chinese action star Jet Li powers back to the screen in “Fong Sai-Yuk Tsuktsap,” a rapid follow-up to the spring B.O. hit that’s actually far better than the original, “Fong Sai-Yuk.” Witty, smartly constructed actioner, also helmed by the experienced Cory Yuen, should score equal points with martial arts fans and follow its elder sibling along the fest trail.
Original movie was a brawny Hong Kong grosser this spring. Sequel previewed in Hong Kong late July to SRO houses prior to full-scale release.
Set during the 18th century when China was ruled by the Manchu Ching dynasty, yarn cleverly taps the nationalistic vein of the “Once Upon a Time in China” series (also starring Li), and also satirizes 1950s Cantonese movies with b&w inserts and anachronistic slang.
This time out, the ingenuous Fong (Li) joins the anti-Manchu Red Flower Society, led by famed “godfather” Chen Jialuo (Adam Cheng). After botching an assignment to grab a secret document en route to the local governor, Fong is given a second chance to retrieve it by competing for the hand of the governor’s daughter. When the document reveals that Chen is actually the emperor’s brother, all hell breaks loose.
Thanks to a stronger script and better balance between comedy and action, present item avoids the original’s dramatic dips. Action setpieces, including a riverside encounter with some Japanese samurai and a tour de force finale played out on a pyramid of stools, are fully the equal of the first pic’s.
Li makes the most of his limited talents in the acting department, playing Fong as a sexual innocent dominated by his martial-artist mom. As the latter, vet actress Josephine Hsiao encores in spades her feisty perf from the original, stealing every scene she’s in with a brilliant blend of comedy and cojones. Other roles are all flavorsomely cast, and production values (using mainland Chinese locations) high.