99 Min | Action – Drama – History | October 2002
IMDB Rating: 8.0
Director: Yimou Zhang
Starring: Jet Li, Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Maggie Cheung
Ying xiong-Hero Review: It sounded like a HK Cinema fan’s ultimate wet dream, Zhang Yimou to direct a martial arts epic with Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Leung Chiu Wai, Zhang Ziyi and Donnie Yen in the cast, Ching Siu-Tung doing the action, Christopher Doyle the cinematography and Emil Wada the costumes. What more could you ask for? (Well, Brigitte Lin coming out of retirement and Yuen Wo Ping and Sammo Hung sharing the action director credits, perhaps). There’s no doubt that the US Market was a major target of Ying xiong-Hero, and US$ went into the funding. Given this it’s a tragedy that Yimou let Miramax get their paws on it and effectively ruin any chances it had of major US success.
Apart from Zhang Ziyi and the Tan Dun soundtrack, CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON is not a good reference point by which to evaluate Ying xiong-Hero. Much more appropriate is Wong Kar Wai’s ASHES OF TIME, with which it shares two lead actors and a cinematographer. Ying xiong-Hero is definitely more commercially oriented, but shares a beauty and philosophical richness with AOT, and a certain melancholy mood. The story of Ying xiong-Hero starts off quite simply, as Jet Li begins to recount his martial triumphs to the Emperor of Qin. The tale is told in flashbacks which revisit and re-evaluate the same events, elaborating on and changing the story as we learn more. It’s reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa’s RASHOMON, and is a great way of developing a mystery thriller. Zhang Yimou handles the building of the tale expertly, as one would expect from such a master film maker.
There are only two disappointments in Ying xiong-Hero. One is the special effects, which aren’t up to the very latest standards. A little less use of CGI would have made it go a lot further (like in CTHD). The other is the soundtrack, which is really just much too similar to the Crouching Tiger soundtrack. It doesn’t fit Ying xiong-Hero as well, but it is still pretty evocative and effective – just too similar to CTHD. I still intend to pick up the extended version of HERO when it’s released, to see what Zhang Yimou’s ideal vision for the film was. Even running shorter than he really wanted it’s a mighty fine film though. If MiramAXE ever do get round to releasing it in the US, hope it does well.