Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai gets a Hong Kong facelift
in the 1989 film Seven Warriors. Like its inspiration, Seven
Warriors is about seven rugged warriors who band together to
protect and defend a helpless village from plundering bandits. Adam
Cheng stars as respected Chinese military commander who puts aside
his binge drinking to put together a motely crew of warriors. The
band of soldiers consists of various types: the handsome, capable
second-in-command (Max Mok); a by-the-book soldier (Jacky Cheung);
a kick-ass marksman/kung-fu artist (Lam Kwok-Bun); the jolly, money-grubbing
old-timer (Wu Ma); the large, lovable lout (Shing Fui-On); and the
pseudo-intellectual country boy (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), whose innocence
and righteousness are the audience's twin anchors. Their opponent: ex-comrade-in-arms Lo Lieh, who is obviously a bad guy
because he has a massive mole with hair sticking out of it.
For sixty minutes, Seven Warriors features minor action, routine character development, and obligatory
plot setup. Then, there's forty minutes of tense standoffs, heroic
bloodshed, masculine righteousness, a mounting body count, and other
assorted stuff which you might remember from Seven Samurai.
Except this movie is in color, and it's not as good as Seven
Samurai. The film also lacks cachet: these guys are not iconic
figures like Japanese samurai are. Instead, they're just ex-soldiers
with more cartoonish personalities.
Overall, the acting is nothing
to write home about, but the actors bring requisite charisma and
likability to their roles. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is convincingly innocent
and lovably righteous, and Max Mok, Adam Cheng and even Lam Kwok-Bun
are cooly charismatic.
The supporting cast helps; having guys
like Shing Fui-On and Wu Ma fill out the smaller roles helps do
away with a lot of time-consuming character development, and director
Terry Tong can cut straight to the big stuff. To be more specific,
the big stuff is a not-so-interesting love triangle between
Max Mok, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and a token female character, and of
course the climactic battle where the bad guys show up and are dealt
with by the warriors. There are minor conflicts between some of
the men, and some threatened dissension from villagers who don't
trust the seven warriors, but unlike Seven Samurai, the details
don't speak to a greater thematic whole. The themes of honor, brotherhood
and the pathetic weakness of man are given only cursory attention.
Such lack of depth is to be expected; it's a safe bet that Terry
Tong was never mistaken for Akira Kurosawa.
There are other glaring debits: Sammo Hung
gets a top credit for a two-minute nothing of a cameo, and some
of the subplots of the film are as interesting as day-old bread.
Originality and genuine emotional surprise are not present either.
If one were to compile a list of Hong Kong's most visceral rollercoaster
action flicks of the late eighties and early nineties, Seven
Warriors would never be among them. But for what it isa
B-movie remake of a genuine action-adventure classicthe film
is decent enough. Thanks
to the familiar genre storyline, the all-star cast and the bullets-and-bloodshed
violence (which is choreographed in that much-beloved hyper-realistic
Hong Kong-style), Seven Warriors is able to bypass its banal
production to become an entertaining, though messy Hong Kong action
flick. Seven Warriors
is no classic, but it's far from bad. (Kozo 2004)