Continuing the story of Wong Fei Hung, Tsui Hark’s Once Upon In China 2 is more of Jet Li’s amazing martial arts prowess punctuated by some decidedly suspect historical accuracy.
In fact this second instalment is so absurdly divorced from reality it makes Braveheart look like a documentary. It essentially attempts to bodge together two plots; one involving a fanatically xenophobic cult and another concerning two revolutionary intellectuals trying to evade capture. Both are half-baked and have absolutely nothing to do with each other; the scenes involving the cult are nothing but an excuse for fancy costumes, fireworks and gimmicky fight scenes. It does contain a well meaning but naive message about religious intolerance but the characters and dialogue are cartoonish and silly. The revolutionaries are a little more interesting but it’s still overly melodramatic and simplistic and the plot haphazardly veers between the two elements with little thought for logic or narrative progression. The attempts at humour are also puerile, making the heroic and revered figure of the first film appear like a childish buffoon here. But of course the one saving grace of the film is the action; Jet Li is as superb as always and I found myself tolerating the nonsense in between in anticipation of the next remarkable fight scene.
But if it’s historical accuracy or a well written – or even vaguely believable – plot you’re looking for, I’d skip it.