Highly-anticipated comic book adaptation survives
a complete belly flop, but the result is hardly Olympic caliber.
Manfred Wong and Andrew Lauís follow-up to the hugely successful
Storm Riders is yet another adaptation of a Ma Wing-Sing manga classic.
The story concerns Wah Ying-Hung,
a Chinese hero in the early 20th Century who wields a legendary
glowing red blade dubbed The Blood Sword. Born under the Star
of Death, Wah Ying-Hung (or Hero to be literal) has the unfortunate
destiny of causing harm to those around him. Thus, he must
remain alone and such is his tragic predicament.
Cinematically, Hero is embodied by Andrew Lauís main actor Ekin Cheng, who has
the hair of a legendary hero but hardly the presence. He can
do intense when he wants, but he canít rivet you to the screen
like Lau Ching-Wan or even Louis Koo Tin-Lok. Ekin Cheng is
a handsome, stoic fellow who lucked into playing these heroic
types, and heís a serviceable enough hero.
What Cheng canít do, however, is save his
films and thatís exactly the case here. Despite incredible
production values and an epic storyline, A Man Called Hero
suffers from too much exposition and not nearly enough actual
storytelling. Too much plot and too many characters are crammed
into 105 minutes, and the results prove disjointed and occasionally
slow. The movie doesnít really begin or end. By the time weíre
twenty minutes in, there are already flashbacks from characters
sixteen years in the future. Or was the prologue also a flashback?
Construction aside, this cram-the-whole-comic-into-two-hours
brand of storytelling leaves us with no real hook other than
the character of Hero. We meet his primary enemy Invincible
(Francis Ng) in the last half of the film, but nothing is
developed to make their final duel anything more than perfunctory.
Some characters come and go so quickly that theyíre rendered
meaningless. Case in point: Yuen Biao as Yuen Mo. Itís great
to see Yuen Biao in a big film, but he does very little.
This isnít to say that A Man Called
Hero is a complete waste. It has some cool concepts and
interesting side characters, and visually itís quite engaging.
With those caveats in mind, one could walk away with a semi-good
time. Still, this movie is the follow-up to Storm Riders,
and it pales in comparison. (Kozo 2000)