A Man Called Hero
Director: Andrew Lau
Stars: Ekin Cheng, Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Yuen Biao, Nicholas Tse
Hero (Cheng) kills a man in a fight, so on the advice of his master (Wong), he heads to America. His past begins to catch up with him when another master (Ng) comes searching for Hero in order to steal his techniques.
Like many recent big-budget HK movies, A Man Called Hero looks great but lacks a heart. There's very little in this film that makes it stand out. This kind of "Hollywood Hong Kong" film-making worked with Lau's The Storm Riders and a few other films, but it's been getting worse each time out. I am now officially sick to death of Ekin Cheng. This guy has to be the worst actor I've ever seen (yes, even worse than Michael Wong) and he makes any film he's in that much more painful to watch. Cheng does okay in roles where he's not expected to do too much (Young and Dangerous 2) but if he has to carry a serious film for any length of time, his lack of skill quickly becomes apparent. One telling scene in A Man Called Hero has Cheng dealing with his wife's death. He's supposed to be crying but it looks more as if he's constipated and trying to squeeze out a turd. Combined with some cheesy old-age makeup (which consists of some spray-painted gray streaks in Cheng's hair), Hero comes off as a clown in the film -- but I wasn't laughing. After the film's premiere, he got the nickname "A Man Called Hair-o" in the Hong Kong tabloids, which suits him just fine. Ekin Cheng got where he is in the Hong Kong movie industry through his good looks, not his talent, and A Man Called Hero is a perfect example of this.
None of the other cast members do a good job, even veterans like Wong and Ng seem to be sleep-walking through their roles, and the young actors in the movie like Nicholas Tse (who plays Hero's son) continually overact and generally just make the movie look even worse. Only Yuen Biao (who puts in a short role that amounts to an extended cameo, mostly to provide the film with its' only taste of real martial arts) and a mysterious martial artist known as Shadow (who is in a Five Venoms-style mask during the entire film, but still manages to display more emotion than the rest of the cast -- for those of you wondering, stuntman/action director Dion Lam plays him while Jordan Chan provides the voice) provide a little spark.
Speaking of martial arts, the fights (which can usually at least somewhat redeem a movie in this genre) featured in A Man Called Hero can't save the film from being mediocre. They're all a big computer-generated mess and/or over in a matter of seconds. One of the film's big "duels" has Ng and Wong literally throwing water at each other, and the duel ending when Ng gets a small cut on his face. These have to be the two wimpiest martial-arts masters ever. The finale on the Statue of Liberty is pretty decent, but it comes off as too little, too late. It's really not worth sitting through 90 minutes of dreck just for one good fight scene. Though in all honesty, A Man Called Hero was a huge hit in Hong Kong (at a time when the local industry needs all the money it can get in the face of growing foreign competition) and a lot of people seem to love the movie, so you may still want to check it out -- but you've been warned.
A review of the VCD for this movie can be found here
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