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226 reviews in total 
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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fantastic Performance By Motoki, 27 August 2017

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This movie is about a novelist who makes life difficult for everyone around him. He's a gloomy fellow who seems to be in a perpetually bad mood. Even worse, he cheats on his faithful wife with an editor acquaintance. Very early in this film, things take a serious turn when his wife dies in a bus accident. Now confronted with this abrupt event, our protagonist is faced with the task of finding closure and moving on with his life.

One of the most interesting things about "The Long Excuse" is that this protagonist is the epitome of multi-dimensionality. He cheats on his wife and has an attitude problem, so you immediately dislike him. But then, he shows a softer side when he volunteers to help care for two little kids, whose father is also a widower from the same bus accident. That sense of responsibility helps to make him more likable. However, half the time I was thinking to myself: "Did this guy still have feelings for his wife, does he feel guilty for cheating on her, or is he just completely confused with how to feel about it?" And it does not end there. I'm not going to tell you all of the other nuances to this man's character because you should experience that for yourself when you watch the film. But what I will say is that there are a lot of different angles that are covered with this character. And if that weren't impressive enough, this movie properly develops the other widower that our protagonist befriends.

In fact, this movie reminded me of Hirokazu Koreeda's film "Like Father, Like Son." One of the reason's why Koreeda's film was so compelling was because it explored so many different angles of one scenario so intricately. After that movie was over, it felt like a complete examination of that particular dilemma. "The Long Excuse" has a similar impact. There are so many different ways that this film explores the themes of mourning and redemption. It's really impressive in its intricacy and scriptwriting.

And that includes the dialogue. The characters in this movie have no qualms about stepping up and telling someone their thoughts on situations that are difficult to talk about. There are a few intense exchanges of dialogue where the characters criticize one another in how they're handling this very touchy situation. It's pretty riveting stuff.

The lead actor is Masahiro Motoki, who you may recognize from films such as "Departures" from 2008, "Gemini" from 1999, "The Bird People In China" from 1998, and "Gonin" from 1995. He is phenomenal in "The Long Excuse." It could be the best performance of his career. It's certainly a very difficult role to tackle, with a wide range of emotion to portray. The fact that Masahiro was able to make this protagonist relatable is a huge accomplishment. I love this guy.

The director is a woman by the name of Miwa Nishikawa, who has directed a handful of impressive films in prior years. My favorite of which is a film called "Sway" from 2006. All of her films are worth watching, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she does next.

Bluebeard (2017)
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Not your typical South Korean serial killer flick, 15 August 2017

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"Bluebeard" is about a doctor who moves into town for business, but suspects that the local butchers are actually murderers.

The first thing to understand about "Bluebeard" is that this is not your typical South Korean thriller that showcases a serial killer. The violence is tempered, with only a small amount of bloody imagery, none of which is particularly graphic. There are no highlight suspense sequences or exhilarating moments of intensity. Instead, this movie builds uncertainly with no therapeutic release for the viewer at all. This is not a crowd-pleasing feat of fun entertainment. It's more like a technical exercise in creating a traditional murder mystery with a lot of misdirection on the part of the filmmakers. This is a glacially paced movie that focuses heavily on psychology. And in that sense, I thought it did a good job.

If you decide to watch this movie, make sure that you're in a thinking mood. "Bluebeard" requires a bit of effort on the viewer's part because you must pay attention to the little details in order to appreciate the misdirections. In classic murder mystery style, I was constantly trying to figure out how to make sense of all the clues and pinpoint the identity of the murderer. And that theory changed as more evidence was presented to me.

I do think that some viewers will find this movie to be too slow for their liking. Again, there's not much "excitement" to this one, and it moves as slow as molasses in January. Even the answer to the murder mystery itself is revealed in a very matter-of-fact way. Some people may not be a fan of that either, especially if they're expecting a more intense conclusion.

But I do think that the positives of "Bluebeard" outweigh any negatives. I previously mentioned the proficiency of the murder mystery elements, but this film has very good direction as well. The director here is Soo-youn Lee, who previously gave us "The Uninvited" from 2003 – a very impressive psychological horror film that I strongly recommend. If you've seen that one, you'll know what to expect from "Bluebeard." Performances are also very good, across the board.

If you're in the mood for a slow burn, check it out.

Okja (2017)
9 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Bong's least impressive film to date, this is still moderately enjoyable, 28 June 2017

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Meet Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend - a massive animal named Okja.

The lead actress here is Seo-hyun Ahn, who has had a small handful of supporting roles in prior films and series but never really stuck out to me personally. She's very good here; I liked her quite a bit because she portrays a determined, responsible girl who is also likable. Performances by Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, are extremely over-the-top. Swinton comes off well during the opening scene, but after that I got sick of her. She's not good in this. In a similar fashion, Gyllenhaal was almost bearable early on, but gets progressively unwatchable as the film rolls along. It's truly an atrocious performance with no nuance whatsoever. Not a big surprise given his acting history. I've never been a fan of this guy, and probably never will be.

Thankfully, "Okja" exhibits some of the usual positives you get with Bong's films. You have a genre-bending experience, with lots of quirky, partially awkward humor that this director seems to be drawn to. This film also showcases some very nice natural environments early on, which is an added bonus. The score is mostly light and hard to explain. It's almost like something you'd hear at a circus, or maybe a polka dance. In any case, I enjoyed the music here. Special effects are also quite impressive for the big pig. One highlight is the lengthy chase/escape sequence that occurs during the first hour. Probably the most purely entertaining part of the film.

So, what are some things that I did not like? Well, I already mentioned Swinton and Gyllenhaal's lackluster performance, but I also think that there are some pacing issues. "Okja" does begin with a 30-minute setup, which is actually quite interesting, then it throws us into that highlight thriller sequence – meaning that the opening hour of this movie is truly entertaining. However, the pacing definitely drags during the second half, or whenever Gyllenhaal is on screen. The excitement drops off a cliff, and that consequently exposes the shallow "message" of the film. And that brings me to my next point.

One trend I've noticed in director Joon-ho Bong's last few films is that his messages are getting less nuanced but more heavy-handed. For example, I enjoyed "Snowpiercer" quite a bit, but one of the problems I had with it was that it was absurdly heavy-handed and cartoonish at times when hammering home its message. "Okja" suffers even more-so from the same problem because the antagonists are pure caricatures, and there's not as much pure entertainment value surrounding the message itself. You know, I really hope that this does not become a trend with this director.

I would be a shame if Bong ends up like James Cameron – a man who is well on his way to wasting 25 years of his directing career making "Avatar" movies. Or he could end up like Michael Mann, another legendary director who fell off a cliff because he became obsessed with making digital film look great instead of creating interesting characters and stories.

This kind of thing happens more often than you might think. Some directors get so obsessed with certain things that they develop a kind of tunnel vision that ignores all of the other important aspects of making a good film. You may think that this is an overreaction, especially considering how Bong still has yet to make a bad film, but I can see it coming if he doesn't right the ship. His next film is going to be important because if he keeps beating people over the head with increasingly blunt "message" films, it's gonna bite 'em in the rear-end because the "message" will end up superceding the filmmaking quality. And I can already see it beginning to happen with "Okja."

With all of that said, "Okja" is a moderately entertaining affair, but there's no question in my mind that it Bong's least impressive film to date. If you have not seen a Joon-ho Bong film prior to Snowpiercer, I implore you to watch everything this man had made. His filmography is small too, so there's no excuse.

The Liar (2014)
A fascinating character study, 19 June 2017

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This movie is about a young woman who lives with her downbeat brother and alcoholic sister, but she's a compulsive liar who constantly gives the impression that she has more money than she actually has. For example, she'll visit a high-end car dealership and peruse the cars, or she'll visit a high-end apartment complex and take a tour of the facilities. But she'll never actually buy anything. Then she'll go and tell her work colleagues that she's engaged to marry and looking to purchase a new house. So she lives this facade while in the presence of others, as well as when she's by herself. So there's a deep-rooted mentality behind all of this. And that's what this film is about.

I recently reviewed a Korean film by the name of "Madonna" recently. That movie was more concerned with story and plotting. "The Liar" is not that concerned with those things. This is a character interaction movie that gives you insight into our protagonist by showing her interactions with other people. Some of the more interesting moments occur when her co-workers or other people begin to see the cracks in her lies and gain the impression that there's something fishy about her constant gloating. Her relationship with her "boyfriend" is also rather fascinating, for reasons that I won't get into.

But I will say that our protagonist frequently exhibits a very cold, artificial personality that thrives on materialism. However, she also has a genuine concern for her siblings. Throughout the film, she tries to help them and push them to be better, when she can. There's also a deep sense of frustration that bubbles to the surface, which is driven primarily by the difficulties of life. These aspects help to create a multi-dimensional character who has just enough relatability. As a viewer, I was almost rooting for her to succeed in her lies because I did not want to see her get confronted and placed in uncomfortable situations.

One reason for this is Kkob-bi Kim's juggernaut performance. I became a fan of this actress about a decade ago when I saw "Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theater", and I gotta say that she's been good in practically everything she's been in – from "Breathless" to "Pluto" to "Greatful Dead." She's fantastic in "The Liar" and carries this film completely on her shoulders. I kid you not, she is in every single scene in this movie. That's some serious heavy lifting, and she great in this and definitely helps to keep the viewer engaged. I found her character to be fascinating.

The director here is Dong-myung Kim, and this appears to be her first feature length film. I definitely look forward to her future projects. You know, I've recently covered – unintentionally – three really talented female directors from South Korea. We had Ga-eun Yoon (from "The World of Us"), Su-won Shin (from "Madonna"), and now Dong-myung Kim (from "The Liar"). Well, this is an impressive list of films and I really hope that these ladies continue making films with the same high standards.

A few more points to make here. The major theme here is commercialism, as you might expect – and that makes this movie very relevant for practically everyone. It doesn't go over the top either in terms of throwing in characters who are billionaires or K-pop stars to make its point. Every character in this movie is grounded, realistic, and probably similar to someone we know in real life. I loved the ending too, because it is sharply ironic and drives home the whole point of the film.

Madonna (2015)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A very good quality, downbeat drama, 19 June 2017

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A nurse's aide named Hae-rim is in charge of an important patient who is completely paralyzed and awaits a heart transplant. The man's son attempts to extend the man's life expectancy for the purpose of receiving his fortune. And considering the status of the patient, most of the hospital staff follow along very willingly. Then, after an accident, a pregnant young woman named Mi-na is carried into the hospital in a vegetative state, and the cold-blooded son (of the old man) sees this as an opportunity for his father, so he offers the nurse's aide a deal. The deal is for her to get an organ donation consent form from the Mi-na's family. Since our protagonist, Hae-rim, is in a poor financial state, she accepts the deal for money. So she sets out to find Mi-na's family with the clue that her nickname was "Madonna," but along the way she discovers the girl's unfortunate past.

The interesting thing about the storytelling structure here is that we basically have two main protagonists: the nurse's aide and the pregnant girl. Fairly early on, however, the flashback sequences become longer and even though these scenes are technically told by Mi-na's acquaintenances (as part of Hae-rim's investigation), it feels like the story is being told from Mi-na's perspective. So we get to spend a lot of time with her, which would not have been the case had the filmmakers simply held the mystery element and told the story solely from Hae-rim's perspective.

You see what happens to her in the present first, and then they shift to an old flashback to her highschool years. After that, they gradually bridge the gap in chronological order and show you how she got from Point A to Point B. This is portrayed in a convincingly realistic manner and I can definitely see this kind of thing happening in real life – and I'm certain that it has happened many times over. Her character is a bit awkward and she has difficulty connecting with other people, which often leads to her getting bullied and taken advantage of, and that's the basis for much of the film. So yes, our titular character is properly developed.

With regard to Hae-rim, she's caught between a rock and a hard place due to the politics at the hospital. There are definitely some shady shenanigans going on there, and she's pressured to acquire that organ donation consent regardless of whether or not the means are immoral. So she grapples with that throughout the film. There are also a handful of social commentary subtexts in this as well, which I will let you discover for yourself.

In terms of negatives, there really were not many that jumped out at me while watching "Madonna." This is 2 full hours long and moves slowly, so I can see some viewers having a bit of a problem with its pacing. But it does unfold efficiently and takes its time to tell a well developed story. The drama and conflict also ramp up during the second half for sure.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A tour de force of schoolgirl politics, 5 May 2017

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This movie is about a 10 year-old girl named Sun, who we soon realize is an outcast at school. The opening sequence establishes this fact, because the kids are playing a game but do their best to prevent Sun from partaking and enjoying herself. Then comes summer vacation, when Sun meets a girl named Jia, who is new in town. During the summer months, these girls hang out together a lot and become best friends. They organize sleep-overs, play at the park, and all of the good things about childhood friendship. However, when the new semester starts, Jia notices the conflicts between Sun and the other kids, meaning that she needs to find her place within the relationship dynamics at school – and that places significant stress on her friendship with Sun.

The first thing you notice about this movie, is that the performances from all of the kids are outstanding. This is right up there with "A Brand New Life" from 2009 and "When I Turned Nine" from 2004 in terms of all-time great child performances in South Korean cinema. This is especially true regarding the lead actress Soo-in Choi, who is simply phenomenal. She does such a good job reacting to everything that is happening around her. This is actually her debut role, and I really hope that her career takes off and that we get many more films with her in the future.

Overall, "The World of Us" is a tour de force for schoolgirl politics in film. This focuses a lot on realistic interaction between the characters and is successful at showcasing the quiet intensity of these girls' relationships that also ebb and flow depending on the situation and who has the "leverage" over others. Some of the girls are mean-spirited, while others are pressured into becoming someone they are not. It really is a fascinating and complex depiction of childhood conflict and friendship.

"The World of Us" is not yet available on DVD, per my knowledge. I saw this on a plane flight to Japan. But if and when it does become available, make sure you check this out. It's an outstanding film.

22 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
An entertainingly violent, action packed film from Miike., 5 May 2017

Viewed on opening night at Namba Parks Cinema in Osaka, Japan.

"Blade of the Immortal" takes place in Japan during the mid-Tokugawa Shogunate period and follows the deeds of Manji, a skilled samurai who has a decisive advantage: no conventional wound can kill him. In the past, his actions of vengeance (for the death of a family member) led to the deaths of 100 other samurai. Near death himself, he then becomes immortal at the hands of an 800-year-old nun named Yaobikuni. Decades later he befriends a young girl who desperately wants to avenge the death of her parents, who were slayed by a master swordsman who is attempting to take over all other dojos. Can Manji fight thru the villain's clan of assassins and secure justice for their deplorable actions? I was a bit surprised when confronted with the opening 10 minutes of this movie – which are legitimately outstanding. I'm not going to tell you exactly what happens, but even Miike's most vocal critics – and there are a lot of them – should admit that that sequence is fantastic. It's basically "critic proof." And it also establishes a darker tone than one might expect from the trailer. This movie gets violent and harrowing very early on, and I liked that.

"Blade of the Immortal" is an action film first and foremost, so it really needs to succeed on that front in order to work overall. Most fortunately, I think that this is a very effective action extravaganza. There is a ton of fighting in this movie, which is an obvious positive, but the placement of the action is very nicely spaced. In my recent review of "Call of Heroes", I mentioned that Benny Chan is very good at spacing out his action and maximizing the pacing of his action films. Miike does the same thing here with "Blade of the Immortal." There are a few huge battles, but also a lot of one-on-one duels (or scuffles with a small handful of characters) that are peppered throughout. "Blade of the Immortal" keeps moving and there always seems to be a fight right around the corner. I really liked that about this movie and consequently, its 140-minute runtime flies by much faster than you may think. The overall quality of action is good too.

In terms of performances, they are also generally good. Takuya Kimura carries the movie quite easily, Sota Fukushi handles the villain role well, and Erika Toda steals the show whenever she shows up. I liked the lead actress (Hana Sugisaki) too, but she does tend to scream her lines a bit too much. I think Miike should have dialed her down a bit.

I did not have subtitles while watching this in the Japanese movie theater, but the story and characters seemed rather basic and simplistic. Not a big problem in my eyes for a full throttled action movie like this, but a few of the side characters seemed to be wasted, like Chiaki Kuriyama's character (who did not do much at all, actually). The filmmakers probably wanted to insert more characters from the manga into the film, so a few of them feel like they were shoe-horned in. One thing I did like is how, at certain times, the villains are placed in the same bad predicaments as the protagonists which means that they occasionally have a common enemy.

This is an entertainingly violent, action packed film from Miike.

Headshot (2016/II)
5 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Weak character motivation does not stop this from being a true crowd-pleaser!, 5 March 2017

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After being inflicted with a gunshot wound to the head, a young man's unconscious body washes ashore in a rural town. For the next few months, a concerned doctor looks over him and his recovery. He eventually wakes up from his coma but suffers from temporary memory loss. Unfortunately for him, his enemies (a group of gangsters who specialize in the selling of guns and drugs) soon discover that he is alive and come back to finish the job.

Before we get to the action, I should mention that the biggest flaw of this movie is the character development. Ironically, I thought the Mo Brothers did a very nice job in their last film "Killers" because the multi-dimensional personalities of the serial killers were even more interesting than the violence and thriller elements, in my opinion. "Headshot" is the complete opposite, and that's especially true in terms of character motivation specifically. I just saw this movie and I don't remember why exactly these gangsters shot our protagonist in the head at the beginning. Or why this cute doctor is so enamored with him. So yes, there are a lot of character motivation problems, but to be perfect honest – it almost doesn't matter because this movie offers a lot of action and violence to compensate.

Now if you've seen The Raid movies (directed by Gareth Evans) and you're expecting something similar here due to some of the returning cast members and the production companies, let me give you some advice. This is a Mo Brothers film, not a Gareth Evans film. That's important to understand, because those are two different beasts with different directing styles. But with that said, you do have Iko Uwais handling the fight choreography in Headshot, so there will be some overlap in terms of action design.

And here's the deal with the action design. No spoilers, of course. The final half hour, which consists of a three part finale, does have the precise, complex martial arts choreography that you expect from films like The Raid. In fact, the last fight is legitimately satisfying and somewhat surprising because of two reasons: first, the main villain does not fight much at all until that moment; and second, he uses an unexpected form of martial arts that really adds some variety and excitement. In addition, there are some moments in "Headshot" where nearby objects – that are not typically used as weapons in everyday life – are used to stun or straight-up murder people. That's one of the signature traits in films directed by Gareth Evans. So that's the aforementioned "overlap" that I was talking about.

With that said, however, everything before that three stage finale feels like a Mo Brothers film. Which basically means that the first 2/3rds of "Headshot" primarily showcases scrappy, simplistically choreographed, blunt, visceral death scenes that would be more at home in a thriller or horror film. Characters are just trying to survive in this movie, and many of them don't. The death scenes in this are very memorable, creative, and gory. There's one scene near the end where a dude gets shot and it reminded me of that infamous scene in Robocop when the ED-209 eviscerated that salaryman in the conference room. Yeah, that's how the violence in this movie works. It's excessive . . . even more so than The Raid movies. But that excessiveness is a lot of fun to watch for people who enjoy "hard R" rated action movies and there's actually a bit of black humor that is thrown in at times. So the Mo Brothers really did put their stamp on this.

Another thing that I noticed with regard to the action design, is that there's a surprising absence of one-vs-many fights in this. We're used to seeing at least one or two scenes of Iko taking down hordes of baddies in Merantau and The Raid movies, but that does not happen often in "Headshot" despite the huge quantity of fighting. It's almost like every fight is a one-on-one match of survival, even in those cases where multiple characters are involved. And that creates a very different feel to "Headshot" because some of the "stock henchmen" are incredibly difficult to kill. And you may have a handful of these dudes lurking around a crashed bus site, or a police station, or a forest hideout, and our hero has to slowly explore and make his way thru these surroundings while taking out each of these guys one at a time. That also helps to make every death scene very personal and memorable.

That action format also helps to create a fantastic pacing. I read a few online reviews that criticized the opening half hour for being slow, but I completely disagree with that assessment. After watching this movie twice in the theater, I don't think 10 minutes went by – at any point in this film – without someone getting violently murdered or beaten. That is not an exaggeration. And the locations change quite a bit, so there's plenty of variety in that regard too. Make no mistake about it – this is a crowd-pleaser for fans of visceral action.

Before I leave you tonight, I wanted to point out one more thing – the music and scoring, which are fantastic. There's even some use of heavy, ominous synthesizer music that worked really well. It had a John Carpenter vibe to it, and considering how one of the most memorable sequences occurs in a police station, perhaps the Mo Brothers are fans of Assault on Precinct 13. I would not be surprised.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
This is the kind of film that Hollywood does not like to make nowadays, 13 February 2017

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Our protagonist (a detective, of course) works day-to-day to track down missing persons. One day, he finally finds the man who murdered his mother (when he was a child), but the murderer gets kidnapped and the detective must track down the criminals responsible. At the same time, however, he is forced to watch over two little girls (the murderer's grandchildren) who are tagging along for the ride. Unfortunately, the kidnappers work for a shadowy organization that has no qualms about eliminating anyone who stands in their way.

This movie has a very noir-ish feel to it, with a lot of investigation that leads our protagonist from place to place as he narrates his thoughts. He even wears the old school detective hat and coat, which gives him a classical look. The lead actor is Je-hoon Lee, who previously starred in "Bleak Night" and appeared in "The Front Line" (both of which are very good movies, by the way). "The Phantom Detective" provides even more evidence that this guy can legitimately carry a movie. He does a good job of portraying a man who is proficient at his job, but is still vulnerable and can get in over his head.

The dynamic between him and the girls is somewhat unorthodox. However, it's also endearing because the kids don't immediately know that he wants to take revenge on their grandfather, but they do figure out fairly early on that he is a habitual liar – and this gives some leeway for the filmmakers to pepper in some humorous exchanges of dialogue between them. In addition, one of the girls breaks out a notepad and takes down information while he questions people, almost as if she were a detective herself. This is entertaining stuff that safely avoids the "annoying little kid" cliché that can really hurt a movie. So basically, there are no weak points when considering the acting in this movie – everyone holds their own.

In terms of action – there are a handful of gun battles and fist fights, none of which are graphically violent, but they do have a hard-hitting feel to them that adds a weight and danger to everything. The action design has a "higher octane" feel to it, without the need for going over the top or chucking in cartoonish set pieces. Everything is grounded here, and that's important in this case due to the tone and type of film we're dealing with. Sure, we have three likable leads, but there are some dangerous people in this movie. One such person is the main bad guy, who makes multiple appearances throughout as he stalks the protagonists. And let me tell you, he's one tough son-of-a-gun too. Now, I won't spoil the ending for you, but what I will say is that it's very satisfying.

There are a few stylistic flourishes that are used for the buildings and environments at times, which utilize some artificial visuals. I know some critics have complained a bit about these particular special effects, but I thought it was a neat idea that gave this film some charm. You know, I have to say, "The Phantom Detective" feels like something that would have come out of U.S. during the 1990s. This is the kind of movie that Hollywood doesn't like to make anymore. And I definitely recommend it.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Another solid film from Benny Chan, 13 February 2017

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Set in 1914 following the collapse of the Ching dynasty, the film tells the story of a group of villagers (lead by Lau Ching Wan and Eddie Peng) who stand up to a cruel young warlord's son (played by Louis Koo) who is protected by a Commander (played by Wu Jing) with proficient martial arts skills as well as a small army. Our main protagonist, the whip-wielding militia captain Yang (Lau Ching Wan's character) has guarded his remote hometown for years, and he alone now stands between the village and this ruthless band of troops who are loyal to the warlord who has been wreaking death and destruction in the region. One morning, the warlord's son saunters into the village and kills a few people, but is quickly captured and prepped for execution. But before the execution can commence, Wu Jing's character shows up and gives the village a deadline to either voluntarily release the warlord's son or face slaughter.

I found the premise interesting because the warlord's son is captured by the villagers very early on, forcing them to decide on whether or not they should execute him. This conflict is at the center of the film for basically the entire runtime – and it's not an easy decision when you put yourself in their place. And most fortunately, this film does take the time to establish the dramatic aspects of everything. "Call of Heroes" isn't just a brainless, dumb action movie. It actually has some character depth and builds anticipation for the action scenes.

It's also anchored by a very good cast, all of whom nail their characters and are fun to watch. Lau Ching Wan has been carrying movies in lead roles for ages, so he's just as reliable as he's always been. If you want some recommendations with him, I would point you to "Lost In Time", "Mad Detective", "The Longest Nite", and "A Hero Never Dies." Louis Koo – who I've covered a bunch of times already on this YouTube channel – is good as the slimy, sadistic bad guy, and his over-the-top performance works. Eddie Peng is an actor who I always enjoy seeing, and here he plays a character who really does not care about the villagers at first but eventually comes to their aid when he sees the injustices they must endure. Some other Eddie Peng titles I would recommend are "Unbeatable" and "To the Fore." And finally, Wu Jing is a convincing villain who is not purely evil like Louis Koo's character. On the contrary, Wu Jing's character simply has a warped set of principles and life philosophies. So it's nice to have four lead characters who are distinguishable from one another, and add something different to the story.

With regard to the action, it is of a good quality. It mostly showcases hand-to-hand combat that is impressive and spaced out nicely, with the finale representing the best set piece. I was particularly surprised that Eddie Peng moves very well for an actor without martial arts background. He has a convincing "fighting presence" that helps to sell the action. A lot of the fights have a hard-hitting, impactful feel to them. But I will say that there is some CGI that is used at times. For example, Lau Ching Wan's whip will occasionally be CGI'd. Also, the ending has one bigger CGI shot, which is a little distracting but I thought it was no big deal. Overall, I was definitely satisfied with the quality of action in this film.

So "Call of Heroes" is definite crowd-pleaser by director Benny Chan. And for some odd reason, I've seen Benny Chan's name before, but I never took the time to check out his filmography. Listen to this resume of highlights: Big Bullet (1996), Who Am I? (1998), Heroic Duo (2003), New Police Story (2004), Invisible Target (2007), Connected (2008), and Shaolin (2011). He's made some other stuff too, but he's contributed enough entertaining action movies to be given special consideration by me. Which means that I will be following him and looking forward to whatever he does next. One thing that I really like about Benny Chan's films – outside of the high octane action itself – is that he seems to have a knack for pacing action flicks. His movies flow very well and rarely feel bogged down or tedious. One reason for this is that he spaced out the action scenes throughout the runtime, but he's also good at showing the development of conflicts and characters enough to bridge the fights. As a viewer, you don't feel like you're just sitting around, waiting for the next action scene. And that's a good thing.

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