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A Hero Never Dies
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Leon Lai and Lau Ching-Wan
Chinese: 真心英雄
Year: 1998
Director: Johnnie To Kei-Fung
Action: Yuen Bun
Cast: Leon Lai Ming, Lau Ching-Wan, Yoyo Mung Ka-Wai, Fiona Leung Ngai-Ling, Henry Fong Ping, Yen Shi-Kwan, Yuen Bun, Lam Suet, Wong Tin-Lam, Michael Lam Wai-Leung
The Skinny: This stylized, pure exercise in genre film is sure to please most fans despite being so hard boiled that it almost becomes a comedy.
by Kozo:

Milkyway Image ’s latest is a welcome addition to their stellar ranks. This is another trip to the Milkyway gangland hell: a stylized version of John Woo’s Better Tomorrow world where the violence is more sudden and the atmosphere much darker. Leon Lai and Lau Ching-Wan are Jack and Martin, two ace hitmen in the midst of a gang war. Despite being on opposite sides, the two share a competitive bond that’s akin to friendship.

Sadly, they also expect one to die by the other’s hand—and they get their chance during a botched assassination in Malaysia. Unfortunately, neither can do the deed properly and before they know it, their bosses have joined forces and left them for dead. It’s only through each killer’s sense of honor and perseverance that payback can be achieved, and if revenge requires two graves, then these guys need a whole cemetery. 

The incredible sense of loyalty and honor that these characters display is what makes them “heroes.” The themes are hammered home so relentlessly that the film nearly enters the realm of parody. Only in a gangland fantasy would characters enjoy a friendship but have no qualms about killing one another later. Ultimately, the narrative of the film is simple: two guys get betrayed and eventually band together to gain vengeance. The plot holes are annoyingly gaping; logic is sometimes forgotten to continue the story.

Still, this is still a well-made, gripping picture that contains all the Milkyway Image trademarks. Johnnie To, Wai Ka-Fai and Patrick Yau have managed to create their own distinctive universe populated by hard-boiled characters who find themselves through their roles as either cop of criminal—or sometimes even both. As Milkyway’s official actor, Lau Ching-Wan turns in another charismatic, layered performance. Sky King Leon Lai is suitably intense as Jack, though still somewhat blank. However, the real star of the film is director Johnnie To, and he performs admirably. (Kozo 1998)

Awards: 18th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Nomination - Best Actress (Fiona Leung Ngai-Ling)
• Nomination - Best Costume Design (So Kwok-Ho)
5th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
• Recommended Film
• Best Director (
Johnnie To Kei-Fung)
DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
image courtesy of the Hong Kong Film Critics Society
back to top Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen