Director: John Woo
Writer: John Woo
Producer: Peter Chan Ho Sun
Cast: Eddie Ko Hung, Lam Ching Ying, Chin Yuet Sang, Fung Lee, Lee Hoi Suk, Cécile Le Bailly, Philippe Loffredo, Tsang Choh Lam, Pang Yun Cheung, Bruce Cheung Mong, Chow Gam Kong, Lam Fai Wong
Running Time: 84 min.
Hard to believe that John Woo had been a director for about a decade before this was produced. Heroes Shed No Tears is reasonably entertaining and certainly not without some merit, but it’s also uneven, questionably paced, and, sorry to say, kind of sloppy.
The biggest problem is that the premise is so thin that scenes that fit into the story like square pegs in round holes had to be inserted to bring the film up to an acceptable length (and it’s still short). This issue is really exacerbated by the fact that there is almost no introductory footage whatsoever…things kick off with the team of mercenaries smack dab in the middle of enemy territory. A poor decision, narrative-wise, but at least the movie can’t be accused of not starting off with a bang.
Like I said, there’s some stuff in here that really bogs the movie down and doesn’t belong. The whole dice-throwing bit just sucks, and there’s an embarrassingly gratuitous sex scene. John Woo seems to treat his female characters with a bit more reverence than certain other folks we could name, but that’s not the case here. The women are disposable whores…the white guy bangs ’em and then…BANGS ’em.
Also, there are a couple of spots where logic (even action movie logic) goes straight out the window. A big huge circle of fire in the middle of a field just burns itself out without touching the surrounding grass. Did Smokey the Bear come and dowse it when nobody was looking or what? And, when Eddy Ko gets tagged in a heated firefight, the armed-to-the-teeth enemies, standing about 20 feet away, politely cease firing so he can say goodbye to his buddy in dramatic fashion.
Lam Ching-Ying is the best thespian here, giving us a memorable villain despite his few lines and lack of significant screen time. In one of the most wince-inducing scenes you’re likely to ever witness, he sews the good guy’s eyes open and strings him up beneath the merciless sun with a wooden stake planted firmly in his back. Owie.
There’s action aplenty with lotsa shooting, a big-ass body count, and a bare-knuckle duel to the death to finish things off, but the heart and soul of Woo’s later work is muted or absent most of the time.
HSNT is the last film Woo did before A Better Tomorrow, and it’s not hard to see why that film rather than this one put him on the map. Still, though, don’t dismiss this just because it’s pre-ABT. It may not be a classic but it is worth a look.
Numskull’s Rating: 6/10