Furious bloodshed drama but rips mercilessly other films off
Guk Gaau Leung's Nobody's Hero (1989) is a pretty unknown Hong Kong urban action drama starring Liu Wai Hung as Ah Gun, a taxi driver who is disturbed by the filth and violence that surrounds him in the big city. Soon he tries to join the police in order to help upholding the law but fails because he is color blind. He agrees to start as a security guard at a nearby shopping mall and it is not long before he realizes a triad gang is working everywhere around him with their drugs and violence, and that a blind and innocent girl (Kathy Chau) is also abused by her triad lord uncle to smuggle the drugs and the like. Ah Gun's girlfriend also leaves him and goes to Japan with another man so all he has now in his life is to save the blind girl and that, as we know, results more violence and terror. Sounds like some other film, perhaps a 1976 Hollywood classic directed by a guy named Scorsese? Unfortunately, yes.
This film has much more negative sides than positive, and the saddest thing is that I've rarely seen a Hong Kong film ripping so many other (Western) films off. The story is straightly taken from Taxi Driver of Scorsese, and some scenes are very identical to that film, for example the ones showing Ah Gun talking to himself alone in his apartment and in front of a mirror! Also, the soundtrack is truly horrible even thought it is based on the work of one of our time greatest composers, Ennio Morricone and his work in Leone's Once Upon a Time in America (1984). There are straight themes and bits from Morricone's music and they are just played with some synthesizer in this HK production and they are played a lot! Why they couldn't come up with something more original with their otherwise seemingly very talented crew is sadly beyond me. The writer is no less than Tsang Kan-Cheung whose work as a director and writer includes Intruder (a dark CAT III rated terror thriller, 1997), and as a writer Shaolin Soccer (2001) and and In the Line of Duty aka Royal Warriors (1986) which all are very noteworthy and even classic Hong Kong films of their own genres. Seems like this early effort was just made in huge hurry to cash in some dollars and think what kind of a story would appeal to the audience, or what has appealed to it previously, that is.
Still Nobody's Hero has its potential and again shows what differs Hong Kong films from Western films. The urban setting is very gritty and violent and the darkness is shot gorgeously to film to make the asphalt and buildings menacing and ugly. A film like this could deliver a strong social message and punch but sadly Nobody's Hero has too many flaws to make that possible.
The protagonist is so irritating because he over acts a lot and his talk sessions with himself are like from the first version of the screenplay (assuming that they had improved versions or screenplay in the first place!), and his acts just are not natural or real. There's plenty of rush and confusing things going on all the time and the film rarely manages to be peaceful and calm making the characters even a little more believable and multi leveled. And when we add the facts about ripping other films off, the film already has unbearably too much serious errors in it.
But one aspect that manages to amaze even in this film is the level of furious carnage and violence once it bursts in the nasty and brutal climax. The violence is as raw and harrowing as in the other, more noteworthy, Hong Kong gritty cinema experiences and it really hits the audience straight to the face and of course this kind of element would be wonderful effect if the film really had some serious themes and things to discuss and depict. Now it can be seen just as a kind of example how it all could have been done to the maximum artistic achievement.
Nobody's Hero definitely cannot be described as a piece of the so called "heroic bloodshed" cinema of Hong Kong as there really are no heroes in this film. It has fierce and graphic bloodshed and man shooting other men with two guns, but still heroism is far away from Nobody's Hero. If you want to see a real masterpiece of the same potential themes, I'd recommend Hong Kong classics like On the Run (Alfred Cheung's crime noir from 1988), the Mak Brothers' The Long Arm of the Law saga (the first film in 1984, considered as the very first of the heroic bloodshed films) and Ringo Lam's films to name just a few. There are great masterpieces available from this unique industry but unfortunately Nobody's Hero is nearly as far from them as possible. 2/10
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