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on 27 July 2000
Corey Yuen Kwai's period adventure "Hero" (Ma Wing Jing, 1997) was Shaw Brothers' spectacular return to the action movie fold after many years concentrating on TV production. A remake of the Chang Cheh classic "Boxer from Shantung" (1972), it's the story of a poor country boy (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who travels to Shanghai in 1911 to seek his fortune and immediately enlists the help of a benevolent gangster (Yuen Biao) who's impressed by Kaneshiro's extraordinary fighting skills. Thus emboldened, Kaneshiro works his way up the ladder of success, operating on the wrong side of the law, until he's challenged by a villainous rival (Yuen Tak) who plots against him. Director Yuen energizes this traditional scenario with typically cinematic bravado, employing thousands of extras to invoke the spectacles of old, and he allows the screen to explode into violent action every ten minutes or so, pitting hordes of axe-wielding assailants against lone warriors who use their surroundings to fend off a potentially horrific death. The melodrama is cranked up for all it's worth, and cinematographer Tom Lau paints a vivid picture of Old Shanghai, while the extravagant music score reinforces the film's old-fashioned appeal. The cast is uniformly excellent, and divided squarely into the beautiful (Kaneshiro, Valerie Chow Kar-ling, Hsuan Jessica Hester), the bold (Yuen Biao at his most virtuous), and the beastly (Yuen Tak as the villain, lacking only a top hat, cloak and twirly moustache). But while the film delivers on action and spectacle, it fails to generate an authentic emotional resonance because the characters aren't really strong enough, though most viewers will no doubt be satisfied by the genuinely thrilling scenes of combat and destruction.
Metrodome's non-anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is derived from a slightly frayed print with a few speckles and noticeable wear at reel-ends, but nothing too distracting. The two-channel mono soundtrack (a bit sibilant) is Cantonese, with the original Chinese/English subtitles burned into the print. The subs are OK but poorly translated, and they make heavy weather of some of the plot's finer points, so be prepared. More happily, Metrodome have utilised a print which restores approximately 10 seconds of gore that was excised from the original Hong Kong version (the film was shot on the Chinese mainland, which meant it was subject to strict Chinese censorship). Though Shaw Brothers were once notorious for their splattery kung fu pictures (take a bow, Chang Cheh!), "Hero" isn't THAT gruesome, but this print fully restores the villain's bloody comeuppance along with a couple of other bits and pieces. One outtake that hasn't been restored, however, is the scene depicting an unfortunate victim lashed between two horses with razor wire who's torn apart as the horses gallop off in opposite directions - as in the HK version, you get a brief glimpse of the aftermath, but nothing more. Aside from the non-anamorphic transfer, the only other major criticism of this disc is that it hasn't been time-encoded, thereby disabling some of the trickplay functions on your DVD player. Nevertheless, this PAL transfer runs 93m 40s at 25fps (original running time: 97m 34s).
The disc also includes a couple of trailers (one Chinese, the other narrated in English), along with a number of helpful biographies for the main players. And though it's fairly obvious that the filmmakers acted responsibly throughout the production, a disclaimer in the closing credits assures us that "No animal was hurt or dead during making of this picture". Disappointingly, the disc is coded for region 2 only.
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on 10 February 2010
A young man, Ma Wing-Jing (Kaneshiro) journeys to Shanghai, where he encounters a number of gangsters and crime lords. The film has some great fight sequences.
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on 18 May 2015
Awesome service and product. This edition is not cut. The ending is mutch better. Cheers
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