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Hero (1997) Blu-ray Review

“Hero” isn’t one of director Corey Yuen’s best films.

1997’s “Hero” (not to be confused with the 2002 Jet Li starring martial arts classic of the same name) is a remake of the Shaw Brothers film “The Boxer From Shantung.” In this martial arts melodrama, the 1920’s set story revolves around brothers Ma Wing-Jing and Ma Tai-Cheung venturing to Shanghai with the hopes of finding success. At this period in time, Shanghai is ruled by 2 Triad bosses- Yang and Tam Sei. Ma Wing-Jing catches the eye of Tam Sei and the two become friends and collaborators. Alas, their lives become threatened by the power hungry Yang (who has the backing of Shanghai’s police) and a gang war ensues. Elsewhere in the story there are romances between Ma Wing-Jing and Kim (a singer) and a highly dysfunctional dynamic between Tam Sei and his former lover/club manager Yam. 

Directed by Corey Yuen (best known for “The Transporter”) and scripted by Jeffrey Lau, “Hero” is essentially a watered down version of the far superior “The Boxer From Shantung.” While Yuen’s eye for style and action sequences is apparent in numerous violent, wild sequences such as the fight on a clearly fake horse, Wing-Jing chopping off numerous hands, a set piece involving bikes, torches, chains, axes and a horse carriage, and the over-the-top climax filled with John Woo like spectacles, they can’t overcome this clunky story. Sure, this remake has a bigger budget, a bigger scope, bigger set pieces, and bigger production values (including quality period recreations), but they are overshadowed by rushed scenes, a lack of characterization, quick edits, weird tonal shifts, a slog of a first half, a cheeseball score, and goofy slow-motion. As mentioned above, the story is also watered down as Lau opts for a a story about friendship and redemption instead of a darker tale about greed like ‘Shantung.’

Cast wise, Takeshi Kaneshiro may be the star as Ma Wing-Jing, but it’s Yuen Biao who steals the show as Tam Sei. Valerie Chow also deserves credit as the conniving Yam (who arguably has the best story arc in the film). 


Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? The HD remaster from the original 35mm negatives gets a big thumbs up from this reviewer. A beautiful transfer to be sure.

Audio Track: Cantonese and English 2.0 LPCM Mono  How do they sound? Sadly, the audio does not fare as well here. The English dub is rough and the Cantonese track (while a better option) is of rather poor quality sound wise.
* A double-sided poster
* Hong Kong and English trailers
* A booklet featuring an essay by Andrew Graves.
* Commentary by Asian Cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema.
* Alternate shots from the Taiwanese version.

July 11, 2022 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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