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 A Hero Never Dies DVD

Mandarin and/or Cantonese Multilingual DVDs

Hong Kong Movie

Bullet Ballet Action

 98 Minutes

Multi-Lingual

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A Hero Never Dies (1998)

真心英雄

Director: Johnnie To

Starring: Leon Lai, Lau Ching Wan, Yo Yo Mong

One of Johnnie To Kei Fung's greatest films with real characters surrounding themes of loyalty and brotherhood.

This is one for the true believers. If you long for the heroic archetypes of late 80s and early 90s Hong Kong cinema, here they are. The makers of Expect the Unexpected (director Johnny To and producer Wai Ka-Fai) leave gritty crime realism aside for a moment and deliver up a glorious homage to the two-gun-blazing big-heart-pumping Hong Kong gunplay genre.

Jack (Leon Lai) is the big brother in Mr Yam's gang. Martin (Lau Ching Wan) is the big brother in Mr Fong's gang. Both are men of honour, and there is a strong bond between them - but that bond is sundered when Yam declares war on Fong. A triad killer must stand by his boss, no matter what, so the two spend one last night looking at each other through the bottom of a wine glass, knowing that tomorrow they'll be looking at each other over the barrel of a gun. Gunsmoke and cordite ensue, but in the aftermath Mr Yam and Mr Fong become partners again, wishing only for peace, prosperity and to quietly sweep away any reminders of their foolhardy war - reminders such as Martin and Jack. Loyalty is the big theme of this movie: do you do the right thing by your brothers or your boss? Each character faces that question and each finds a different answer, even if it means following it all the way to the graveyard - but as the title says, a hero never dies.

Lau Ching Wan is excellent, even with a bad moustache and a cowdy hat. He is the man to watch in Hong Kong film at the moment, self-assured and with style to spare. Leon Lai is less successful, mostly because about all he does is look noble and/or puzzled - but he does both very well, so he gets by. He certainly has the looks to carry the archetype he's playing here, and when he walks in slow-mo into the bar with the light streaming behind him and the theme music playing, you know that old fashioned heroes are back in movies.

The women in this film are also first rate - strong performances and strong roles. Fiona (Fiona Leung) and Yoyo (Yoyo Mung) are Martin and Jack's respective girlfriends, and both have different ideas about what it takes to be the woman of a big time gangster. They are committed and pro-active, and provide the best scenes in the film. Their parts in the story allow A Hero Never Dies to at times transcend the male-centric films of John Woo (Wai Ka-Fai directed Peace Hotel for Woo, so he's knows the turf well enough).

As you'd also expect, there's action aplenty. The stand-out is a stakeout in the rain at a cheapo Thai motel, which at once evokes film noir and westerns, with even a bit of Aliens thrown in as hordes of gangsters crash down through the roof.

The film does threaten to drown in its own myth-making. The scene where Jack and his buddies stand tall and piss up against towering trees while the theme music booms goes clear across the border into parody without a visa, with a return trip a few scenes later when Martin and his buddies piss up against the same trees to the same music. That highlights another problem with the story, in that everything has to happen twice, once for each side. Two gangsters + two girls + two gang bosses + two gangs - it's the Noah's Ark principal of screenwriting. It also has a streak of melodrama wider than Kowloon Bay, so if that bugs you, stay well clear.

I loved it though, and with only a month left of 1998, it's looking like the film of the year for me. Here's an easy test to decide whether A Hero Never Dies is going to do it for you: Do you think the sight of a legless gangster pushing himself along on a trolley in dogged pursuit of vengeance is (a) a stirring image of a man who will go to any length to find redemption, (b) a dodgy treatment of disability issues, or (c) a bit silly? If your answer is (a), grab your buddies and walk tall into the nearest screening of this Hong Kong gangster gem.

DVD: List Price: US $19.95

Sale Price: US$12.95

Language: Cantonese / Mandarin

Subtitle: English / Traditional Chinese / Simplified Chinese

All Regions (Can be played on any DVD player in the world)

Letter Box

Rating: IIB - "Adult Material; Parental Guidance Recommended" (roughly equal to an MPPA rating of "R") Films rated Category IIB contain large amounts of violence and/or nudity and sexual situations in addition to possible explicit language and adult situations.


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