time around, action film specialist Benny Chan wears his Spaghetti Western
influences/homages on his sleeve, but Sheriff Yang Kenan is cut from cloth much
closer to Gary Cooper in High Noon. Yang
is given a grim ultimatum: release the murderous son of ruthless warlord Cao
Ying or the town of Pucheng will face the consequences. Slowly his neighbors
turn against their sheriff, but at least the high plains drifter will throw-in
his lot in with Yang in Chan’s Call of Heroes (trailer
releases today on DVD and BluRay, from Well Go USA.
schoolteacher Bai Ling (that’s her character, not the actress) leads a small group
of children to sanctuary after the sadistic and entitled Cao Shaolun attacked
their school in an act of terror. Following her to Pucheng, Cao kills Bai and
two others before Yang captures him. Of course, he is sentenced to death,
because he is guilty as sin, but representatives of the Cao forces still demand
his freedom. They promise to leave the town undisturbed if they comply, but
Yang knows that is a lie. So does Ma Feng, a wandering warrior who has some
complicated history with Cao’s Colonel Zhang Yi. He also had some chemistry
with Bai, but he realized it too late.
might be Republican era China, but the dramatic vocabulary of Call is pure spurs-and-saddles American
western. It starts at the top with Sean Lau Ching-wan, who is all about a man
having to do what a man has to do. He has grit and gravitas worthy of Cooper or
Alan Ladd, but he is no superman. He is flesh-and-blood, maybe even distantly
approaching middle age, which makes his character so heroic yet relatable.
Peng Yu-yen continues to mature into a legit action star, showing plenty of
chops, but also mixing in a comparatively light sprinkling of physical humor. In
all honesty, the growth he has shown since his early teen rom-coms has been
impressive. Wu Jing and Xing Yu add plenty of real deal martial arts authenticity
as Zhang Yi and hired muscle Wong Wai-fu, respectively. Returning to the sort of
villainous roles that actually suit him so well, Louis Koo hams it upshamelessly
and goes way-the-heck-and-gone over-the-top as Cao Shaolun—and it’s a blast to
watch. Yuan Quan adds some glamour and shows some decent moves of her own as
Yang’s wife Chow So-so. In fact, Master Sammo Hung keeps everyone on their toes
as action director, choreographing some spectacularly cinematic yet still
bone-crunchingly old school martial arts sequences.
about every element in Call is
borrowed from another film, but it is all executed at a very high level by a
superstar ensemble, seen at the peak of their powers and playing to their
strengths. For martial arts connoisseurs, it might not be the greatest film
they have ever seen, but it is a guaranteed sure thing. Easily recommended for
fans of Lau, Peng, Koo, and Hung, Call of
Heroes releases today (12/6) on DVD and BluRay, from Well Go USA.
Labels: Benny Chan, DVD, Eddie Peng, Louis Koo, Martial arts cinema, Sammo Hung, Sean Lau, Well Go USA, Wu Jing, Xing Yu