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Heroic Duo
cast: Leon Lai, Ekin Cheng, Francis Ng, Karena Lam, and Raymond Wong

producer and director: Benny Chan

98 minutes (18) 2003
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Tartan Asia Extreme DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
Although, strictly speaking, this is a formulaic marrying of at least three familiar crime-related genres (namely the buddy movie, the police procedural, and the psychic thriller), with its winning combination of charismatic star turns and astute direction, maintaining tension and suspense throughout several predictable plot twists, Heroic Duo (aka: Seung hung) emerges as well above average Hong Kong action fare.

Dynamic top cop, Ken (Ekin Cheng, The Twins Effect, The Avenging Fist, A Man Called Hero, and The Stormriders), is determined to solve the nagging mystery of why a policeman committed a robbery and then claimed no knowledge of what he'd done. For help in cracking this baffling, and seemingly paranormal X-Files' type case, Ken turns to imprisoned psychologist, Jack (Leon Lai), and enlists the aid of his own sometime-girlfriend, Brenda (Karena Lam), who's also a cop with the elite G4 division. When the assembled police squad's investigation uncovers evidence that a criminal mastermind, of the rogue hypnotist variety, nicknamed the 'Mindhunter' (rather than Hannibal, I kept thinking of the Hood from classic TV puppet show Thunderbirds!) is behind the crimes, an engaging battle of daring wit and desperate one-upmanship ensues, where the disbelieving cops can hardly trust one another, just in case the cunning villain has warped one or more of the detectives' minds and turned them against their colleagues.

Psychogenesis, turning an individual's secret pain against them to break their will and resistance to being hypnotised, is the intriguingly barmy notion at the core of Benny Chan's slick and pacy thriller, but what makes the film so enjoyable are the terrific chases - across rooftops, through posh hotels and busy streets - that have a gripping intensity to match the works of Ringo Lam or Gordon Chan. Perhaps best of all, the stunts and visual effects are joined seamlessly in the eye-catching style of one-take documentary realism, so it really does look like these glamorised super-cops are jumping or falling off tall buildings, and not simply going through the motions of screen heroism while their stunt doubles tackle all the hard stuff.

Hypnosis meets Heat is probably the best way to describe this. If you're already a confirmed fan of Ekin Cheng, it's essential viewing. If you've never heard of him, and are quite new to releases from the Tartan Asia Extreme label, then Heroic Duo is a marvellously entertaining introduction to Hong Kong action cinema.

The DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen, with a choice of excellent Dolby digital 5.1 or DTS soundtracks in Cantonese with English subtitles. Disc extras include short video interviews with Benny Chan, and (fight choreographer) Stephen Tung, plus a making-of featurette, a trailer reel, and a four-page booklet with film notes.

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