Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Zoom Lens 

Wednesday, Jan 21 1998
Corey Yuen Kwai, like many longtime Hong Kong directors, has had a preposterously spotty career, from the sublime Fong Sai Yuk to the execrable Mahjong Dragon. His new film, Hero, an attempted big-canvas period classic along the lines of Once Upon a Time in China, sits a little closer to the bottom of the scale. The first movie in almost 15 years to sport the old Shaw Brothers logo, it's meant as a splashy comeback for the studio, with lavish sets, hundreds of extras, and an all-star cast. Indeed, the Chinese locations are great to look at and the long-coat-and-fedora costume design is handsome, but Hero is nothing more than a compendium of gangster-movie cliches. Our bumpkin hero Ma Wing Jing (Takeshi Kaneshiro) arrives in Shanghai with his comic-relief brother (Yuen Wah) determined to carve out a piece of the big city for himself. He instantly befriends one gang boss, Tam See (Yuen Biao), and pisses off another, Yuan Shuan (Yuen Tak). From here, the banalities quickly line up, as the naive Ma is corrupted by a bad woman and then saved by a good one; forms his own gang and becomes too ambitious, rich, and snooty, turning his back on his mentor; returns after his near-tragic downfall to triumph over his evil enemies in a kung fu battle to the death. There's plenty of fierce martial-arts action, and in these scenes the film occasionally shows some real spunk. I especially like the one in which Ma, after telling an attacking gang of bad guys to "give me a hand," whacks off all their arms with a sword. Most of the fighting, though, is so absurdly frantic that it's impossible to follow. The Shaw Brothers studio is going to have to do a lot better than this if it wants to rejoin the international cinema fray.

-- Tod Booth

Hero opens Wednesday at the Four Star.

About The Author

Tod Booth


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"