Heroes Shed No Tears
Golden Harvest, 1986, 93 min.
AKA: Blast Heroes
Manadrin title: Ying Xiong Wu Lei (The Sunset Warrior)
Director: John Woo
Stars: Eddy Ko Hung ("Chan Chung"), Lam Ching-Ying ("Vietnamese Colonel")
Writer: John Woo
Producer: Peter Chan
Cinematographer: Narakawa Kenichi
Editor: Cheung Yiu Chung
Available on video (widescreen and dubbed/subtitled) from Tai Seng
Available on DVD from Media Asia - a review can be found here
"You can't determine what fate brings you."
A group of mercenaries, led by the tough-as-nails Chung, are sent into Thailand to capture a general, who also happens to be one of the Golden Triangle's biggest drug runners. After rescuing Chung's son and sister-in-law, they head to the Vietnamese border, where they witness a group of soldiers torturing and executing a group of reporters. The mercenaries decide to help out and Chung shoots the Vietnamese colonel in the eye, which causes him to hunt down the group mercilessly. The group's numbers begin to dwindle as they are hunted by Taiwanese and Vietnamese troops, as well as native headhunters. Taking refuge at Chung's friend Jimmy's hideout provides no safety, as the crazed colonel launches an all-out attack where it seems if no one will survive.
Heroes Shed No Tears was the first time Woo worked outside of the comedy and kung-fu genres. It's a gritty, unrelenting movie (save for a short comedic gambling sequence) that clearly shows the beginnings of the "heroic bloodshed" films Woo would soon complete. The gunfights are well staged, but they are extremely violent and bloody, even by Woo's standards. Woo once said that "there is never violence for violence's sake in a John Woo movie," but it seems as if he wasn't following that formula here. For instance, there is a part in the movie when one of the mercenaries is killed by some of the Thai troops; his arm is chopped off and they drive four spears into him -- all shown in very gory detail. I'm not against violence or gore in films, but a lot of it in Heroes Shed No Tears just seems gratuitous.
Other areas of the film are weak as well. The pacing is kind of uneven, and there are a couple of sequences in the film (most notably a drug/sex scene) that grind the story to a halt. Also, except for the two leads, many of the actors in the film just aren't all that good and deliver their lines very stiffly. Thankfully, some of the relationships in Heroes (such as Chung and Jimmy's) help give the movie a soul and clearly provide the basis for the way Woo explored relationships in his later films such as A Better Tomorrow and The Killer.
Overall, though, the film does deliver some great action sequences. A lot of people have dismissed Heroes as being a somewhat minor film in Woo's filmography, but I think it marks a major turning point in his career and deserves to be viewed by any serious Woo fan.
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