Legendary Chinese historical figures meet in this hugely derivative and lazily plotted costume actioner. The film is nonetheless enjoyable on a pure pulp level for its fast-paced, cartoonish action.
Beijing envoy Lam Che-chu joins forces with folk hero Wong Fei-hung to curtail the foreign opium trade in south China. A local prince (Xiong Xin-xin) is behind the drug smuggling; his protection is supplied by a bevy of kung fu-fighting women in white, the Fire Lotus Cult. The Prince enlists
self-centered and irresponsible young fighter So Chun (Donnie Yen) as a weapon, by getting him addicted to opium and sending him after Wong and Lam. But young So is driven off and returns home to suffer withdrawal pains, rendering him incapable of fighting back when the Fire Lotus Cult attacks and
kills his foster father. Soon after, Lam and Wong discover where the Prince is warehousing the opium and they besiege the premises. An epic battle ensues, with So joining at the last moment; the Prince is summarily killed, his opium burned.
In 1991, Tsui Hark's ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA revived and reinvigorated the kung fu period film by adding state-of-the-art action to a tale of the iconic Wong Fei-hung (1847-1924) and the encroachment of foreigners in turn-of-the-century China; the sequel in 1992 added superfighting villains
played by talented cult faves Donnie Yen and Xiong Xin-xin. HEROES AMONG HEROES from 1993 borrows both actors as well as plot devices from Tsui's films (e.g., the western-dressing photographer girlfriend), and tosses in Lam Che-chu, a real-life Chinese patriot fiercely opposed to opium, whose
exploits have been the subject of several Mainland films. It was in response to Lam's radical actions that the west initiated the first Opium War, and he was ultimately reprimanded and banished by Beijing for his part in fomenting hostilities (in 1840, years before Wong Fei-hung was even born).
History however has rendered him a hero, although his part in the film consists largely of showing up periodically to signal the end of fight scenes.
And there are fights galore, employing extensive wirework and sped-up or otherwise exaggerated action. Action breaks out even among allies at the drop of a hat. The disjointed, eager-to-please plot is further fleshed out with a musical interlude and interminable lowbrow comedy featuring So's
widower father and the Aunt who adores him, played by comic mainstays Ng Man-tat and Sheila Chan. At one point he clobbers her, knocking out her buckteeth; she fawningly asks to be hit again--it felt good. The plot thread concerning the hero's opium addiction (reminiscent of the Shaw Brothers film
OPIUM AND THE KUNG FU MASTER), potentially the most interesting element, is largely thrown away, with his "cure" consisting of getting so drunk that he forgets about the drug. Shamed and dissipated, he drifts sideways out of the story, only to reappear good as new for the final fifteen-minute
The film was released to US video in 1998 with the bottom portion of the picture (including the original subtitles) blocked out in black, and new larger English subtitles ineptly added, freezing at certain points, then speeding through numerous lines of dialogue in an instant to catch up.
(Violence, sexual situations, substance abuse, profanity.)
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- Released: 1993
- Review: Legendary Chinese historical figures meet in this hugely derivative and lazily plotted costume actioner. The film is nonetheless enjoyable on a pure pulp level for its fast-paced, cartoonish action. Beijing envoy Lam Che-chu joins forces with folk hero Wo… (more)