Hong Kong has built a reputation for producing high quality and action-packed cinema. From the studied nostalgia of Wong Kar-wai to the bullets and mayhem of John Woo, they’ve found a market with English-speaking audiences. When it comes to action, it’s the gangster and cop films of Johnnie To which are prevalent. However, the co-produced Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made the biggest impact. In his new film, Call of Heroes, Benny Chan takes elements of the wuxia classic and spaghetti westerns to create a compelling martial-arts epic.
Set in the Warlord era, when the village of Pucheng sends its army out to fight, it’s reliant on the local guard for protection. Led by ‘Sheriff’ (Lau Ching-wan), they’re a highly skilled and dedicated group. When Cao Shaolun (Louis Koo Tin-lok), the sadistic son of a feared warlord, arrives and murders three people it leaves Sheriff with a dilemma. Allow the villain to walk free or face an attack from troops lead by Cao’s lieutenant Zhang Yi (Wu Jing).
Chan takes his cue from the works of Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone, producing an epic which is encompassed in a small moral struggle. In a market drowning in bad CGI, it’s refreshing to see some great action set-pieces. Thanks to the legendary Sammo Hung, the fight scenes are cleverly and realistically choreographed and executed. Call of Heroes is a thrilling and violent martial-arts blockbuster, breathing life into a genre which was growing stagnant.
Call of Heroes is released on Blu-ray, DVD and VoD by Cine Asia on January 2.