EASTERN HEROES was released in America solely to capitalize on Robin Shou's popularity in the aftermath of MORTAL KOMBAT. American producers should have been made aware that Shou's Hong Kong career was nothing to crow about and that he immigrated to Hollywood specifically to get away from the movies he had been making back there. This film probably falls into that category, being a mild exercise in boredom highlighted by a few instances of particular nastiness. Beware.
The story: A Vietnamese hit-man's (Shou) quest for vengeance makes him the target of an American policeman (Conan Lee) and his Hong Kong brother-in-law (Ben Ng).
Playing the main villain, Shou is absent for about half of the picture, and the protagonists are not nearly as interesting as he is. Conan Lee can be a very entertaining guy, but aside from the downplayed tone of the film, the characters that he and Ben Ng play are mostly defined by their relationships to others - rendering themselves pretty bland whenever they're leading solo scenes. The plot they illustrate is not particularly difficult to follow, but the theme of revenge begetting revenge creates a very dark air. The tone is set when Shou shoots a pregnant woman to death, and the movie loses all claims to tastefulness when another pregnant woman (Jo-Jo Ngan) is gang-raped by Shou's thugs. Truly, that's a shameful moment for everyone involved in the film.
The action content is pretty evenly divided between shootouts and fistfights. For the most part, there's nothing here you haven't seen before. The shootouts are intense but mundane, and even though the cast includes some very graceful performers, the fight scenes tend to be brawls of the most inelegant kind (kudos to the poor stuntman of the first Shou/Ng fight). Some redemption arrives in the form of the final two fights, which are also broad slugfests but are well-choreographed and long enough to stand out. One of these likely constitutes the single best fight in the career of lifelong supporting kicker Mark Houghton.
Still, these two encounters are not worth sitting through the rest of the movie for. It's hard to recommend this one, but perhaps viewers who enjoy gritty cop/gangster drama will be moderately entertained by this minimalist effort. Otherwise, almost everyone else can stay away from this.
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