A Man Called Hero
Even coming into this film with lowered expectations
due to the many mixed comments I have read I was still greatly disappointed.
As was once said about Oakland, there is simply no there there. The film
is as emotionally hollow as a dead fossilized tree. There is really not
a true heartfelt moment in this entire film and it left me aghast.
This film is the stylistic sequel to last year's
Storm Riders. Once again director Andrew Lau (Young and Dangerous series)
brings a comic book to the big screen and indulges in this new world of
HK fantasy in which supposedly Hollywood type special effects will allow
HK films to compete in the global market. But not only are the special
effects computer generated, but it feels as if the script and acting was
as well. If this is the future of HK film, let me off the bus.
Seemingly so intent on creating a film with
an epic legendary feel to it and utilizing lots of special effects, they
forgot to include a few small matters such as characters that you care
about and a plot that pulls the viewer in. Part of the problem is the structure
of the film. Nearly two thirds of it is told through various flashbacks
from different characters and this just creates an artificial distance
to be put up between the characters and the viewer. No one comes across
as a real person - just as cardboard characters and when a few of them
die during the film it has no emotional impact whatsoever. This film is
based on the Chinese cartoon Chinese Hero but I would have to imagine
that the cartoon figures had more flesh and blood than did these
The worst offender has to be the main character
Hero played by Ekin Cheng. His comrade Shadow shows more acting range
and he wears a mask the entire film! Ekin nearly goes through the entire
film with his face set in some sort of heroic grimace as if ready to
be sculpted. He and the rest of the characters are complete ciphers from
beginning to end.
A quick summary for those who may be interested.
It begins in the early part of the 20th century in China. Hero and Shadow
are martial arts students of Pride (Anthony Wong). Hero's parents are killed
by some gweilo opium traders and Hero immediately gets his revenge. This
forces him to leave his love Kristy Yeung behind and flee China to America
but not before he impregnates Kristy.
Sixteen years later his son Sword (Nicholas
Tse) comes looking for him and he finds people who knew his father and
in flashbacks they tell him what happened after Hero came to New York City.
The son becomes a friend with Yuen Biao who runs
a hotel in Chinatown. Yuen is one of the few bright spots in this film
as he has a fight with a group of bigoted white guys. Regretfully, Yuen
only has limited time in the film.
Pride has an ongoing feud with another Master
Francis Ng and Ng sends five Ninjas to America to kill Hero. Among
these are Mark Cheng, Sam Lee and Hsu Chi. In a fight Hero wounds Hsu Chi,
but instead of delivering the death blow he saves her and she falls in
love with him. Later in one of the more idiotic turns in the film the KKK
comes to NY and tries to burn down Chinatown while Hero fights Ng on top
of the Statue of Liberty.
Though the film has a great cast on the surface
dont let that fool you Sam Lee, Francis Ng, Hsu Chi, Anthony Wong,
Mark Cheng, Grace Yip and Yuen Biao are all terribly underutilized while
Ekin and Tse are just terrible. Only Kristy shows a bit of range and heart
in this film.
So this leaves us with the action and special
effects. There is actually very little action and the few fights seem to
end much too suddenly such as Yuens against the bigots or Heros against
the killers of his parents. Many of the fights are almost totally fx oriented,
but the fx are close to laughable. People are flying around so quickly
that I thought I was watching a Mighty Mouse cartoon. There is a minimal
amount of real martial arts. One particular fight between Anthony Wong
and Francis Ng reflects this. They face each other down with swords drawn
and . . . splash water on one another all with fx of course. Finally
Wong says the fight is over he has won huh? what did Ng get his underwear
wet. It was just ridiculous.
Of course the worst thing about this film besides
that it was a big box office success is that it left enough open ends
for a sequel to be almost a sure thing. What a dreadful thought.
My rating for this film: 4.0