In a perfect world, we would have gotten the second chapter of Kung Fu Cult Master <倚天屠龍記之魔教教主> in the mid or late ’90s, where Jet Li’s Mo-Kei ends up locating Chiu Man (Cheung Man) in Dadu.
Even though Wong Jing’s 1993 version was a hit-or-miss effort, I am still curious about what the follow-up would look like with the original cast intact. Of course, it’s all wishful thinking here since the first movie failed at the Hong Kong box office back then.
Wong Jing did get his wish to continue his story of Jin Yong’s (Louis Cha) The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre, albeit with a different cast altogether. The second chapter of New Kung Fu Cult Master <倚天屠龍記> (the first one was released four days ago on January 31), which premiered exclusively on Tencent Video and Youku Movie simultaneously on February 3, continues with Mo-Kei (Raymond Lam Fung) has now become the new leader of the Ming Cult.
Here, the second chapter is pretty much devoted to the eventual love triangle story arc between Chiu Man (Janice Man), Chow Chi-Yeuk (Sabrina Qiu) and Siu Chiu (Yun Qianqian), where all three of them harbour the same feeling for Mo-Kei. Co-directors Wong Jing and Keung Kwok-Man depicted the love story in a straightforward manner. And yes, even devoid of the obligatory juvenile humour and sex jokes often associated with Wong Jing’s filmmaking style.
But love stories are neither Wong Jing nor Keung Kwok-Man’s strongest suits. They rely heavily on the sappy love ballad soundtrack to supplement the scenes and the fact the emotion here feels manufactured. It doesn’t help either when Raymond Lam Fung’s endlessly brooding and too-cool-to-emote expression made the movie’s love story duller. With the exception of Janice Man’s role as Chiu Man, Yun Qianqian and Sabrina Qiu’s respective portrayals as Siu Chiu and Chow Chi-Yeuk remain as disappointing as they did in the first movie.
The rest of the supporting cast including the recurring ones (Alex Fong Chung-Sun and Raymond Wong Ho-Yin’s Bat King) and new additions (e.g. Chen Zihan’s Purple-Clad Dragon King) are largely reduced to background characters.
Unlike the first movie’s added comic-relief moments played by Tin Kai-Man and Lam Tze-Chung, Wong Jing and Keung Kwok-Man’s New Kung Fu Cult Master 2 <倚天屠龍記之聖火雄風> is more tonally serious by comparison. The usual jokes are practically non-existent here but I can’t help but find the second part is too joyless for its own good. Perhaps it has to do with Wong Jing and Keung Kwok-Man’s stoic way of telling their story, even with all the movie’s fantastical elements. Certain character developments, notably Sabrina Qiu’s Chow Chi-Yeuk’s should-have-been impactful character arc is disappointingly perfunctory. Even some of the conflicts that occurred throughout the movie are resolved in a hasty manner.
Action sequences remain among the least lifesavers in New Kung Fu Cult Master 2 <倚天屠龍記之聖火雄風>. Elaborate effects-heavy set pieces involving Mo-Kei’s battle against the three masked warriors from the Persian Ming Cult atop the snowy mountain are worth mentioning here. And so does the final third act, where Mo-Kei squares off with Xing Yu’s Cheng Kun.
Well, so much for New Kung Fu Cult Master 2 <倚天屠龍記之聖火雄風> after the promising first chapter in the two-part movie saga. Given the scope of Jin Yong’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre novel that covers multiple characters and events, it would have been wise for Wong Jing and Keung Kwok-Man to make this into a trilogy instead.