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Ordinary Heroes
  |     review #1     |    review #2    |     awards     |     availability     |  
Year: 1999


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese & Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

Director: Ann Hui On-Wah
Cast: Rachel Lee Lai-Chun (Loletta Lee), Lee Kang-Sheng, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Tse Kwan-Ho, Bau Hei-Jing
The Skinny: Critically-lauded but somewhat distant drama from Ann Hui.

by Kozo:

Award-winning political drama from Ann Hui treads on rich territory and results in a noble, but emotionally lacking effort. Using the work of real-life activist Father Franco Mella (played here by Anthony Wong) as a guideline, Ordinary Heroes moves from the plight of the boat people through the tragedy at Tiananmen Square with a sweeping view of political activism in Hong Kong.

The situations and storytelling are top notch but ultimately the film proves a better portrait than a story. The film doesn't try to educate viewers about Hong Kong's political history, and instead concentrates on a long-unrequited romance between Taiwanese actor Lee Kang-Sheng and Loletta (now Rachel) Lee. Sadly, that plotline proves of tenuous interest, which isn't helped any by Lee Kang Sheng's obviously dubbed acting. The relationships, while affecting, don't truly reach a conclusion in the film, which is sad because it seems that Hui is reaching for one.

Where the film suceeds is in its generous portrait of the times, and in its performances. Anthony Wong shows through his subtle character work that he's one of HK's most versatile actors, and Tse Kwan-Ho and Loletta Lee anchor the film with their respective peformances. Ann Hui's usual opaque, unfiltered lens captures her charactrers better than most, and the actors make us feel for their characters. However, the overall structure of her film lacks emotion and driving force, and the events and the film's ultimate voice don't push us along. Ordinary Heroes is an extremely noble effort, but it's also not a very emotionally resonant one. (Kozo 1999)

Alternate Review

Ordinary Heroes is a dramatic representation of true events surrounding an Italian Priest (here called Kam, and played by Anthony Wong) in the world of HK political activism during the 1970's and '80s. It is interwoven with the fictional story of a girl named Sow (Rachel Lee) who is suffering from amnesia after an accident. Her boyfriend Tung (Lee Kang-Sheng) is trying to help her remember who she is. Through a series of non-linear flashbacks fit for the History Channel, we are told of Sow and Tung's involvement with Father Kam, a communist sympathizer and Christian with strong political convictions. Over the years, Kam's group participates in sit-ins, protests and fasts in order to get the Hong Kong Government to change their ways regarding housing for boat people and the deportation of the women of these poor families to Mainland China.

At first, the non-linear structure of the story feels disjointed and gives the illusion of poor character development. Every time it looks as if director Ann Hui is going to give us some insight into what makes a particular person tick, she shifts the focus to politics or to a peripheral character. Upon further examination, it becomes evident that every principal character is extremely well drawn with their humanity being brought out quietly through their actions. Even if we disagree with the activists, we can certainly sympathize with their suffering when we are presented with the injustices that unfold around them.

Ordinary Heroes is a thoughtful and melancholy film with great cinematography and award-winning performances. It is also very much an art house film with non-commercial sensibilities that might leave the viewer downright depressed. (Magicvoice 2003)

Awards: 19th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Winner - Best Picture
• Nomination - Best Director (
Ann Hui On-Wah)
• Nomination - Best Actor (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
• Nomination - Best Actress (Rachel Lee Lai-Chun)

• Nomination - Best Supporting Actor (Tse Kwan-Ho
• Nomination - Best Screenplay (John Chan Kin-Chung
• Nomination -
Best Art Direction (Poon Yim-Sum, Fung Gai-Fai)
36th Annual Golden Horse Awards
• Winner - Best Picture
• Winner - Best Director (Ann Hui On-Wah)
• Winner - Best Actress (Rachel Lee Lai-Chun)
• Winner - Best Makeup and Costume Design
• Winner - Best Art Direction (Poon Yim-Sum, Fung Gai-Fai)
6th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
• Recommended Film

image courtesy of the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen