Fearless Hyena Part II [龍騰虎躍] (1983)
AKA Superfighter 2
Starring Jackie Chan, Austin Wai Tin-Chi, Yen Shi-Kwan, Kwan Yung-Moon, James Tin Jun, Chan Wai-Lau, Hon Gwok-Choi, Dean Shek Tin, Ma Cheung, Peng Kong, Wong Chi-Sang, Pearl Lin Yin-Zhu
Directed by Chan Chuen
Expectations: Pretty much none.
There’s no doubt that the circumstances under which Fearless Hyena II was made are exploitative, but who said exploitation wasn’t fun? Sure, it re-uses scenes from Spiritual Kung Fu and The Fearless Hyena, it has Jackie body doubles, and it has a plot that jumps around in order to make sure that Jackie “I Just Left Lo Wei’s Company to make Good Movies” Chan doesn’t need to be in every scene. It has all of these “problems” and more. But in terms of the bad movies that Jackie made with Lo Wei, Fearless Hyena II is surprisingly one of more entertaining ones. With things like jungle spike traps and two-character team-up attacks, I couldn’t help but enjoy myself.
The story is surprisingly deep, original and heartfelt your standard kung fu movie plot: The Heaven and Earth Devils, two dudes with evil beards and hairdos, are attempting to eradicate the Ching family’s 6-8 Magic kung fu style from existence. Only two Ching brothers and their two sons remain of the family, and even after they have been in hiding for over 15 years, the Heaven and Earth Devils have remained stalwart in their villainous quest. These are some seriously evil dudes. Well, to be fair to the Heaven Devil (the always awesome Yen Shi-Kwan), does say that he’s taking out the Ching brothers to avenge his father’s death. So maybe they’re actually the “good” guys. After all, we can’t judge people solely by their evil eyebrows — sorry, I meant to say maybe-evil-maybe-good-who-can-really-know-the-content-of-a-man’s-soul-from-an-eyebrow eyebrows.
Anyway, Jackie Chan plays the son of Ching Tsun Nam (James Tin Jun), one of these surviving Ching brothers, so I’m sure you can guess what might happen in Fearless Hyena II. Austin Wai Tin-Chi plays the other young Ching, but instead of practicing martial arts he would rather sleep in and let his amazing windmill-powered, Rube Goldberg-style automated house do everything for him. He must have studied the martial arts at some point, though, as Jackie forces him into a battle late in the film where he has no choice but to quickly recall his dusty martial arts skills and defend himself.
There’s no doubt that if Jackie had stuck around to finish Fearless Hyena II, it would have ended up as a different film. Fearless Hyena II doesn’t feel like the other work that Jackie was doing around this time, especially those films he directed. Instead there’s a definite Lo Wei vibe throughout, which makes the film feel more like a lost early film than one from the ’80s. While watching I couldn’t help but imagine a world where Lo Wei didn’t go behind Jackie’s back and release this film to capitalize on Jackie’s current success. Thinking about Jackie’s scenes as if they were lost relics that fans had never seen and only heard rumors of, Lo Wei’s exploitative mindset ends up benefiting the fans. Hilarious scenes like Jackie and Dean Shek in the restaurant (apparently a cut scene from The Fearless Hyena), and the fun restaurant fight between Jackie and Pearl Lin Yin-Zhu with Jackie stealing kisses between strikes, are the kinds of small glories that this overall underwhelming film offer the hardcore Jackie fan.
In order to use these scenes previously shot by Jackie, Lo Wei had to film the scenes that Jackie never got to, and this includes most of the fights. I’m sure that most of the frustration with this film comes from this fact, because who watches a Jackie Chan movie to see other people who vaguely resemble him fight his battles? I sure don’t, but it’s the kind of thing I’ll bear with to see those “lost” Jackie scenes. And besides, the Jackie double (or doubles, I’m not sure) perform admirably and deliver engaging battles. They are clearly not Jackie Chan, but their skill is still well beyond the feats of normal humans. The fight with “Bearded Jackie” is the best showing for the double, and his quick movement in this scene is what makes me think this guy is a different double than the guy who fights in the red nose and mustache disguise.
Fearless Hyena II is always better when the actual Jackie Chan is on-screen, but a lot of the other moments worked well for me, too. There are many scenes with the Heaven and Earth Devils, and because they’re such devious bastards they can combine their attacks into more powerful versions when they team up. I don’t care what the movie is or how it came to be, if it’s throwing team-up attacks my way with even a shred of effort I’m going to enjoy the shit out of them. The team-ups in Fearless Hyena II felt especially fun to me, with their blows causing one man’s vision to fracture into the multifaceted view of an insect. Could be that I just haven’t seen anything like it recently, but I have to call it like I see it. And when the Devils are doing things like coming together to battle James Tin Jun in a burning house with a thrilling first-person, handheld section of the fight, I have to call the Devils’ scenes pretty damn entertaining.
The finale is probably the biggest let down of the film, though, as instead of the climactic battle you thirst for, we’re expected to be satisfied with the Jackie double fighting, with Jackie’s dialogue from the finale of The Fearless Hyena spliced between blows. And then, once the battle separates the Heaven and Earth Devils from each other, director Chan Chuen just replays a bunch of the finale from The Fearless Hyena. So that’s why Yen Shi-Kwan plays the main villain in this film, too! But all the “Emotional Kung Fu” that Jackie learns to defeat him in The Fearless Hyena is edited out, and this time Jackie just wins after fighting for a while. You can only massage stock footage so much I guess. I do have to give credit to Austin Wai Tin-Chi’s section of the finale, as his character wonderfully brings together his family’s 6-8 Magic kung fu with his love of inventing complex traps and machinery.
So yeah, Fearless Hyena II may not be especially good, but it is rather entertaining. Given the choice of letting the legitimate Jackie scenes from this film rot in some forgotten film vault, or seeing them surrounded by extra, Jackie-double scenes, I’ll take Fearless Hyena II every day of the week.
Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan is his first team-up with Sammo Hung: Winners and Sinners! See ya then!