Thursday, June 4, 2020

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #59 Fearless Hyena Part II [1983] ★

It was probably too much to ask for the sequel to The Fearless Hyena (1979) to be as good as the first. The film was Jackie Chan’s debut as a director and it marked an early high point in his career, both as a filmmaker and as a restlessly creative stunt choreographer. Consider the film’s masterful climax where Chan defeats an evil fighter with “emotional kung fu,” confounding him with absurd techniques mimicking explosive emotional outbursts. It was the rare intersection of martial brilliance, directorial know-how, and can-do recklessness that defined the very best of classic wuxia cinema.

That said, there was no reason for the sequel, Chan Chuen’s Fearless Hyena Part II, to be so heinously abysmal. But then, Chan himself backed producer Lo Wei into a corner when he jumped ship mid-production, breaking his contract with the studio to sign on with Golden Harvest. Determined the release a finished product, Lo hired stunt doubles to complete the unfinished scenes and shamelessly recycled footage from the first film to pad out the runtime.

In truth, Fearless Hyena Part II is a sequel in name only—the plot and characters are completely unrelated to the first film. It doesn’t even bother to bring back the emotional kung fu that made Chan’s character in the first movie the eponymous fearless hyena! Instead the film features a truly scatterbrained plot about two estranged cousins, Cheng Lung (Chan) and Tung (Austin Wai), who join together to avenge their fathers’ murders at the hands of their rivals, the Heaven Devil (Yam Sai-koon) and Earth Devil (Kwan Yung-moon), two ruthless killers whose synchronized fighting style makes them practically invincible.

Of course, said vengeance only occupies maybe the last fifteen minutes of the film, the first seventy-five being devoted to half-baked and obnoxious shtick. There’s an excruciating sequence early on where Chan applies to be a waiter in a restaurant owned by an imperious Dean Shek who sneers half-cocked non-comedy for what feels like an entire reel before Chan just…leaves the restaurant to do something else. Even worse is the addition of Hon Kwok Choi as Frog, a gambler who gets entire set pieces whose only purpose is to eventually introduce the cousins to each other before getting killed off. Fearless Hyena Part II is barely a movie—it’s only a finished film by runtime technicality.

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