Revenge Of The Kung Fu Master

Revenge Of The Kung Fu Master (1994)
Tai Seng Video Marketing
Cast: Donnie Yen, Nick Cheung
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Trailers

A year ago, Tai Seng released "The Kung Fu Master," on DVD, telling the first part of an epic saga about Hung Hei-Kwun and his uphill battle against the Ching dynasty. With "Revenge Of The Kung Fu Master" the studio now dishes out the second part of the story, bringing the saga to a conclusion. As a reminder once again, this DVD is taken from a 30-episode TV show made in China. The series has been re-edited to create more coherent storylines and to remove some of the lengthy padding.

"Revenge Of The Kung Fu Master" shows us Hung Hei-Kwun determined to revenge the murder of his father Red Dragon – as witnessed in "The Kung Fu Master." He and his closest friends from the Sun Moon Sect decide that in order to defeat the Emperor’s men and bring the ruling Ching Dynasty to its knees they would have to improve their martial arts skills. So, they apply at Shaolin Temple and successfully join the most respected and feared martial artists in the world. Over months and years they train rigorously to hone their skills while the Emperor’s men try in vain to find them. Eventually however they are discovered and once again the Emperor sends his henchmen to kill every member of the Sun Moon Sect, employing also the powers of an enigmatic incredibly skillfull Kung Fu master, White Brow. To make matters worse, Hung Hei-Kwun, Wing Chun and their friends are also betrayed by one of their own… will they ever be able to overturn the Emperor and bring back equality to the people of China?

Since it is a continuation of the previous film taken from the same TV min-series, the film looks and feels exactly the same as "The Kung Fu Master." Beautiful landscapes, a number of recurring characters, familiar settings and a plot line that twists every which way as the story progresses mark this film once again. The film feels very authentic and especially the characters are drawn very well with depth and purpose, even more so as their backgrounds and motivations are gradually unveiled adding to the wonder of the film.

Despite its running length of 217 minutes, "Revenge Of The Kung Fu Master" never feels slow. There is constantly something going on, whether it is some character development, some intrigue or high flying action – never is there a dull moment. Despite many TV series’ tendency to be extremely dialogue-driven – especially Chinese ones – "Revenge Of The Kung Fu Master" never feels that way. The re-editing has certainly helped in that respect as it condenses the series to its essence, driving the plot forward at a good pace.

The martial arts in the film are outstanding once again. Donnie Yen puts his skills on display so many times that you can’t imagine him topping himself yet that is what he consistently does. Just as the character he is playing grows in his skills so do we witness his martial arts get more incredible one step at a time all the way to the film’s final fight. But all other characters are equally impressive and there are many moments during which you will find yourself rewinding the DVD for a few seconds just to see a particularly amazing move again – a little more prepared this time.

The film is presented in its original <$PS,fullframe> aspect ratio on this release. Spread over two discs, Tai Seng made sure to give the film ample room to breathe and the result is an image that is rich with detail and free of compression artifacts. Once again the color scheme of the film is a bit muted and faded, but it is an intentional device employed by the filmmakers to give the movie its particular look. Color reproduction is faithful and hues are vibrant and well rendered. Black levels are solid creating deep shadows that don’t lose detail yet also never break up. All in all this is a very pleasing transfer, especially given the film’s origins as a TV mini series.

Identical to the prequel, this release features a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track alongside a <$DTS,DTS> audio presentation in the movie’s original Cantonese language. An English dub is also included in 5.1 Dolby Digital, but real fans of these films will most likely enjoy the Cantonese tracks in the first place to maintain the original atmosphere of the film. While making good use of the surround channels, evidently this is not a new in-your-face mix. Instead it makes restrained use of the surrounds, though to very good effect. Ambient effects and the music are nicely spread across all channels to create a wide and engaging sound field. Once again, kudos go out to Tai Seng for treating this film with the proper respect – unlike virtually all of their competitors who regularly butcher Hong Kong movies.

The DVD also features are <$commentary,commentary track> by Hong Kong film expert and close personal friend of Donnie Yen, Bey Logan who had already provided his comments on "The Kung Fu Master," and once again he is virtually bubbling over with information for the entire 217 minutes. He almost seems to forget to breathe at times, that’s how intensely packed his commentary is. Whether it’s the most minute production detail or some broader information on the times, the settings or the history of the real characters depicted, Logan always has plenty of insights into these subject, adding incredible value to the DVD. Sadly a <$commentary,commentary track> with Donnie Yen is not part of this release, as it was a true highlight of the prequel. I am sure it was because of Yen’s unavailability given his busy schedule as a result of his rising popularity here in the US as well, and after all Bey Logan is more than making up for it with his insights.

A 12-minute "Making Of" Featurette is also included on the release. It is actually more of a promo clip that was probably used to promote the TV series at the time. It consists mostly of footage from the series with a few very brief interview clips and on-set footage. Still, it’s a nice addition, of course.

A selection of trailers for other cool movies that Tai Seng has in its catalog is rounding out the release, hopefully whetting your appetite for some more martial arts films.

Tai Seng once again did a remarkable job bringing this film to DVD and one can’t thank them enough for taking such good care of the TV series, giving it such a splendid home on DVD. The DVD is offering a splendid presentation of the film and the extras are definitely adding to the experience. Now, it is time to run "The Kung Fu Master" and "Revenge Of The Kung Fu Master" back to back and take in the entire glory and depth of the saga and to enjoy the fruits of Tai Seng’s labor. Don’t miss this great opportunity to witness the struggles and life stories of some of China’s most legendary heroes.