REVIEW: Call Of Heroes (2016) – ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Call Of Heroes (2016)


I was not expecting much for this film, particularly because this really did not have anything going for it, judging from the marketing material. The trailers looked like a typical wuxia/martial-arts film from Hong Kong: period piece, another Chinese revolution, corrupt army officials, and over-exaggerated wire-work. It was a film that seemed destined for a rental, at best.

The opening scenes have Chinese words scroll briskly detailing a backstory of the film’s settings, most of which I have honestly forgotten about, apart from a village’s entire army force being sent to the front-lines of some battle. Then a bunch of orphans and a schoolteacher escaping from a ravaged city gets harassed by bandits in a tea stop, only to be rescued by a messy drifter played by Eddie Peng (Rise of the Legend, the upcoming The Great Wall), who at times resembles Toshiro Mifune in both the classics “Yojimbo” and “Seven Samurai”. Then I started to get positively curious.

The deal-sealer for me came in the form of Louis Koo (Wild City, Drug War) as the film’s villain, the son of a revered war general, and also a complete grade-A nutjob. This guy, he’s a real piece of work. As soon as I expected a sappy romance between Peng’s drifter and the pretty teacher, Koo destroys that expectation by straight-up pumping her, a food stall vendor and another schoolkid full of lead. Then I perked right up, realizing that there’s another 105 minutes left of this film to go.

Obviously, the villagers get pissed and the noble village chief (Sean Lau, Mad Detective) rightfully sentences him to hang for his crimes. But it’s never that simple. Part of daddy’s regiment, led by army official Wu Jing (Wolf Warrior, SPL II: A Time for Consequences) storms the place and demands that Koo be released within 24 hours. If a hair were to be removed from his head, daddy’s army will raze the village to the ground. Koo knows this, and diabolically taunts the village head into losing face, going so far as to attempt suicide to see whether he’d be rescued. But Lau is equally as determined and will see fit that this monster hangs, even though there are dire consequences at hand.

This is a spaghetti western disguised as a wuxia film, and to this viewer, it is surprisingly a lot of fun. Director Benny Chan (Invisible Target, New Police Story) is clearly having a ball paying brief homages to Sergio Leone, Akira Kurosawa and Chang Cheh while zip-lining from one action sequence to another. He also brings out some likeable leads in Lau and Peng, while wisely allowing Koo to channel his inner Lee Van Cleef to deliver a villain anybody will love to hate. With the exception of some dodgy CGI near the film’s end involving pottery, the only major complaint is that Wu Jing’s character is relegated to the Hong Kong action cliché of “brother-on-opposite-sides”, where he shares a past and conflict with Peng’s drifter.

When the action sequences do come, as elaborately choreographed by the mighty Sammo Hung, they hit very hard, and fly high, especially in the film’s climax where lots of stuff gets blown up real good and some really exciting fight sequences occur. Smoothly edited, crisply shot, so as to savour each and every punch, kick and explosion that comes. Best of all, they are clearly R-rated, and most definitely not for a PG-13 crowd. There might be a few people concerned about the wire-fu absurdity prevalent in most Hong Kong martial-arts films, but I prefer them over CGI Hollywood fluff any day of the week, and most especially if they are done as well as this.

Personally I feel that this action film is worth your time if it is near your area. There isn’t any pro- or anti-China propaganda thrown into the film, at least from what I recall, so it refreshingly just focuses strictly on its heroes and villains. It is most definitely one of the better wuxia films of late, and Koo’s performance alone makes this one worth seeing.