Director – Corey Yuen
Martial Arts Director – Corey Yuen, Yuen Tak (The Master, Dragon From Russia)
Takeshi Kaneshiro (Chungking Express, House of Flying Daggers)
Yuen Wah (Dragons Forever, Eastern Condors)
STORY: After a severe drought, Ma Wing Jing (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Tai Cheung (Yuen Wah) leave Shantung for Shanghai. Once they get there, the only work they can get is as coolies until a chance encounter with crime boss Tam See (Yuen Biao) sets him on a path towards the power and money he’s always sought, but will he have to sacrifice too much to get it?
Impressions: Not to be confused with Hero (2002) starring Jet Li or A Man Called Hero (1999) also starring Yuen Biao, this is Corey Yuen’s remake of Chang Cheh's Boxer From Shantung and sees Takeshi Kaneshiro showing he’s not just a pretty face and can also bust some serious moves.
It’s an interesting story of how one man’s desire for money makes him forget all the things he holds dear – family, friends, romance – to take him to the top of the crime ladder. Ma Wing Jing’s descent is gradual enough to be believable and his first encounter with crime boss Tam See gives him an opportunity to show his skills and he learns his first lesson in setting his sights on higher goals than just picking up a dollar from the floor. A prolonged fight for a pocket watch on a horse & carriage shows the two men are equal in fighting skills, but far apart in status.
Yuen Biao is great in this as he plays a character quite different to most his others. Tam See is a crime boss but a very charismatic one. He wants to take Ma Wing Jing under his wing but finds it hard to have a love life when you’re at the top of the ladder. Obviously, Yuen Biao is no slouch when it comes to martial arts and he gets to showcase his talents in a number of scenes including an impressive sequence where he has to fight off dozens of axe-wielding assassins.
Yuen Wah also plays a role different to the usual cigar-twirling bad guy from the likes of Dragons Forever, Eastern Condors and On The Run, and instead plays the part of comedy sidekick. Tai Cheung’s devotion to Ma Wing Jing is unbreakable and he’d rather take a beating than see his friend hurt. There’s a humorous sequence where the two are trying to break out of police custody, but he fears his friend will get hurt so refuses to hand over a gun and when he finally does, he keeps hold of the bullets.
For fans of Corey Yuen’s stylised action, this is a must. It combines some kinetic and inventive fight sequences, but has a engrossing story that grips to the bloody end.