Yeung Hak-nan (Lau Ching Wan) is the sheriff of a small village known as Pucheng. It’s a small, quiet place to live where people just want to work and enjoy the simple things in life. Everything is great until the arrival of Cao Shaolun (Louis Koo), the son of the Warlord Cao Ying. Shaolun isn’t just the son of a warlord, he also happens to be a homicidal maniac, lives mean nothing to him. The first thing he does is kill the village’s teacher, her cousin, and a young child, all innocents who have do no harm to anyone. Yeung Hak-nan quickly arrests the lunatic and plans to have him executed but before he can carry the sentence out, Cheung Yik (Wu Jing) shows up, a commander in the the Warlord’s army. He demands they release Shaolun or he and his troops will launch a full on attack of the village. This leaves Yeung in a terrible place, he’s a man of honor and refuses to let him go, knowing this could impact the village in a horrible way. Watching on the sidelines the whole time is the drunken wanderer Ma Fung (Eddie Peng), a former soldier and old friend of Cheung Yik. Ma has his own set of principals and tries to talk Cheung out of an assault. Things don’t work out exactly as planned which will lead all of these characters into a bloody battle where only the strongest will survive.
Not only is CALL OF HEROES one of the best action films I’ve seen this year, it’s also one of the top martial arts films and a return to the classic style of Hong Kong filmmaking I grew up on and love. It’s not just action for actions sake (I love those films too) but it takes the time to develop characters, to introduce a dilemma, all while telling a captivating story. It’s equal parts Western and Shaw Brothers action, very little CGI, with explosive action scenes to draw you in. Hong Kong film royalty, Sammo Hung (PEDICAB DRIVER) is the films’ action director and he always knows how to unleash brilliant choreography. The fighting gets brutal but it has a rhythm and style only he can deliver. Director Benny Chan has an impressive resume but over the last several years he has done some fantastic action/drama pictures like SHAOLIN (with Jackie Chan) and CITY UNDER SIEGE. Here, he shows that he’s only growing as a filmmaker, his drama scenes are tense and interesting, while knowing how to grab an audience with how he captures the action.
The great thing about CALL OF HEROES is the fact it almost qualifies as something that could be classified in the “heroic bloodshed” subgenre of action films. There’s a great chemistry between Peng and Wan so the moments they must band together is terrific. The relationship between Jing’s character and Peng is also very interesting, with both of them dealing with the inner struggle of their past friendship and their current beliefs. At nearly two hours, it never drags, it’s always engaging and a fantastic slice of action cinema.
Available today on DVD and Blu-ray!