October 7, 2019  (Web Review)

Heroes Shed No Tears

Film Movement, 89 min., in Cantonese, English, Tahi & Vietnamese w/English subtitles, not rated, DVD: $29.99, Blu-ray: $39.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Actually, there are quite a few tears shed by the heroes of John Woo’s 1986 action extravaganza, which was made the same year as his far superior A Better Tomorrow. One of Hong Kong’s legendary writer-directors in the violent thriller genre (Woo went on to make a number of hits for American studios, including Broken Arrow and Face/Off), Woo here serves up a pretty good escape story with a few sideways quirks. A small team of elite Chinese mercenary soldiers, led by a tough battle-scarred warrior named Chan Chung (Eddy Ko), has been paid to take out a major drug operation in Thailand and capture the rogue general in charge. A lot of explosions later, Chan, his crew, and the general are speeding toward the country’s border, somewhat incongruently joined by Chan’s resourceful young son and the latter’s aunt. (The group will soon be accompanied by an endangered French journalist as well–a random development probably meant to help the film’s box office in Europe.) From that point, Heroes turns into a race against a motley crew: the general’s surviving forces, a sadistic Vietnamese officer and his border patrol, and a tribe of spear-wielding trackers who have been forced into assistance. A couple of oddball chapters (including a long, comic scene about gambling, and another featuring obligatory nudity and sex) break up the film’s momentum a bit, but Woo redeems everything with intense fighting sequences (a roaring fire, set by the bad guys and meant to consume Chan’s son, is genuinely horrifying) and clearly-drawn characters. Extras include an interview with Ko, and a booklet with an essay by author and Asian film scholar Grady Hendrix. A minor entry in the director’s canon, this will still appeal to Woo fans and should be considered a strong optional purchase. (T. Keogh)