Heroes Shed No Tears was filmed in 1984/1985 but didn't get a release until after the success of A Better Tomorrow in 1986 and is considered to be Woo's transition from Kung Fu films to his now trademark explosion filled gun-play action films.As with most Cine Asia releases we the consumer are treated to a fair amount of extras on the disc and a print that has been digitally remastered.
I bought this film on the basis of it being a war film and although it is set during the Vietnam war it's not your average war film.It doesn't take the usual route of Americans fighting the V.C or NVA, in fact there is only one American GI on show and he's a deserter.
The plot is as simple as they come,a group of Chinese mercenaries employed by the Thai government and under the leadership of Chan are tasked with capturing a drug lord.If they succeed the men are promised green cards to enter the U.S.It seems that capturing the drug lord is the easy part but delivering him safely is another matter altogether.
The mercenaries succeed in capturing the drug lord in an opening scene that had so many explosions that I was sure Woo had blown (pardon the pun) the whole budget in the first ten minutes.They are then relentlessly chased across Thailand,Laos and Vietnam by a whole range of over the top colourful characters and are occasionally aided by friendlies.
The 1980's saw a plethora of Hollywood mercenary films with the likes of the Delta Force franchise and the Dogs of war to name but a few.The only difference here is the obvious Hong Kong style this genre is shown in.The friend I watched this with is a huge Hong Kong fan and loved it from start to finish.
For me the film was like a coin,with one side blowing me away and the other making me laugh uncontrollably.I loved the stunning location filming and am hard pressed to name any Vietnam war film that came close to the scenery.The close ups of the weapons/loading were out of this world.The M-16 shown had the cleaning kit in the butt of the rifle and the .45 pistol had the manufacturers name stamped down the side(props wouldn't show these).The sniper shot through the scope scene pre-dates Saving Private Ryan's and is infinitely more realistic.The wardrobe and pyrotechnics teams deserve a nod for their attention to detail and I liked the addition of Montagnards in the film.The camera work too is top notch and shows signs of Woo's ability in camera placement.
The other side of the coin is the bendy rubber spears used,the stunt men contorting and twisting when shot and the lack of any real character development(only Chan's character has any background at all).The dialogue is as cheesy as it comes and the enemy fire thousands of rounds without hitting anything yet the mercenaries don't miss(ever).
This withstanding I was mildly entertained and the film never takes itself too seriously.It has no profound meaning or messages and is what it is a mindless violent action film.Fans of the genre will undoubtedly love it and likewise those not into hong Kong style film making will probably loathe it.I think three stars is a fair assesment of a film ridiculously and unintentionally funny yet peppered with great shots and action.
Filmed in a mixture of English,Cantonese,Thai and Vietnamese with English subtitles,again no dubbed version available.