I think that pretty much everyone has heard the name Bruce Lee at some point in their lives. Considered by many to be the greatest martial artist that has ever lived, he has made a couple of legendary Hong Kong actionmovies. As many of you know I am a huge Asian movie buff, but I discovered the Asian martial arts genre pretty late. And it wasn’t actually Bruce Lee that introduced me to it, but an equally famous actor, namely Jackie Chan. I have seen many of the old Jackie Chan flicks, and enjoyed them an awful lot. Police Story, Armour of God, Drunken Master, are just a couple of examples of his movies that I really liked. When you really love something though, you try to find out more about it, and eventually I discovered there were a lot of other gems in this volatile genre. These days martial arts movies are made in almost every country, not only Asia. But for some reason I just think the best of these type of films are still coming out of China. That’s not to say that all of these movies are good though.
Call of Heroes takes place in the past, right after the dissolution of the Qing Dynasty. The land is being torn apart by a bunch of military governates that are trying to seize power. The ruthless Marshal Cho, who is a son of one of these military governors, travels across the country killing people indiscriminately. At one point he ends up in the village of Pucheng where he kills three people, one of them a young boy. Soon after he is arrested by Colonel Yeung, who is the leader of the town militia, and sentenced to death. As can be expected, his father doesn’t really take kindly to this, and orders him to be released. If they fail to comply, the town will be destroyed. As the town is not capable of defending themselves against the might of an army, tensions are beginning to run high. The pressure on Yeung increases as the citizens of the town are afraid for their lives, and want nothing more than to have Marshal Cho released. But then a mysterious stranger enters the town. This man could be the turning point of everything, but his intentions are unclear. Has he arrived to offer his help, or has he come for something more sinister? Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking and the time for Pucheng is running out……
Call of Heroes is one of those movies that really doesn’t know what it wants to be. At the start of the movie, you think it’s a comedy (albeit a very bad one, with seriously cringeworthy humor). Then all of a sudden it switches gears and turns into a Western. Or at least something that tries to be a Western. And then we all of a sudden get a very brutal action movie. And I do mean brutal. Because when Marshall Cho begins to kill, the deaths he causes are quite horrific and unexpected. I don’t mind it when a movie blends together different genres, in fact if done right it usually makes for an interesting watch. Here though the execution is done very poorly and as an audience you are just unprepared to take some of the scenes seriously. Especially since a minute ago you supposedly had to laugh at a few of the slapstick jokes that were fired at you.
And then there is the acting. Marshal Cho is played by Louis Koo. Now I have seen him in a few relatively minor roles before, but he clearly is out of his league here. His overacting in trying to make Cho a menacing character just doesn’t work. His maniacal laughing gets on your nerves every time he does it, and instead of fearing him, you just end up thinking of him as a very annoying and quite frankly comical character. Marshal Yeung was one of the few characters that I really liked. Played by Sean Lau, he had a very calm and charismatic way of acting that made Yeung a character that you could really establish a connection with. Eddie Peng completes the triangle of main characters, by playing the role of the mysterious stranger. In the beginning of the movie his slapstick antics failed to impress, but his role did improve over the course of the film, and turned into something better. Veteran martial artist Wu Ying also has a small but decent role in the movie, and gets to showcase his talents in some great scenes.
And that brings us to a positive note that I can say about this movie, and that is the fight sequences. The fight choreagraphy is handled by the legendary Sammo Hung and for people who have some knowledge of the Hong Kong action movie genre this name should be very familiair. Sammo has certainly managed to produce a couple of terrific martial arts sequences, that at least managed to make make the movie not a total loss. Unfortunately though that is not enough for saving this movie from being a pretty disappointing watch. With the struggle this film has in trying to decide what it wants to be, as well as some truly over the top performances, it just isn’t a movie that I can recommend. The only reason that I did not grade the movie lower, was the fact that the martial arts on display, especially in two high caliber sequences, was pretty awesome. If you are a fan of Hong Kong action cinema you might want to give this one a go. Casual moviegoers though, had best avoid this one.
I give Call of Heroes a 5 out of 10 score.