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Heroes Shed No Tears
cast: Eddy Ko, Lam Ching-ying, Yuet Sang Chin, Doo Hee Jang, and Ho Kon Kim

writer and director: John Woo

85 minutes (18) 1986
widescreen ratio 16:9
Hong Kong Legends DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
Previously better known for comedy and martial arts, writer-director John Woo here embarked on the career arc that would make him the Hong Kong Police Force's favourite auteur. The release of Heroes Shed No Tears (aka: Ying xiong wei lei) was delayed until the international success of A Better Tomorrow (1986) showed he knew what he was doing.

In a fairly basic plot, the Thai Drug Enforcement Agency hire a gang of mercenaries led by Chan Chung (Eddy Ko) to capture drug baron General Samton from his jungle stronghold; they succeed but have to run the gauntlet of his private army trying to get him back. It is a grim and violent combination of gunplay, massive explosions, hurtling bodies, and street kung fu, played out against one of those cod-Morricone spaghetti western type soundtracks familiar from early martial arts movies. The caper is complicated when Chan rescues his son and sister-in-law along the way, taking them along with his team and their prisoner, as they all make their escape through Laos. Chan's payment for the successful operation is Green Card visas for the USA for himself and his family.

The mercenaries are a unique bunch in that they are fearless, loyal and honourable, so much so in fact that they stop at the border to rescue a French woman being attacked by the border guards under the command of a psychotic junkie Colonel played by Lam Ching-ying. Chan shoots the Colonel in the eye, easily missing his brain, and this is the cue for the latter to abandon the devastated border post, threaten native tribesmen into joining forces with him and pursue Chan and his men across Cambodia. Pursued by General Samton's goons, the homicidal Colonel and his border guards, and spear-wielding tribesmen, the mercenaries seek refuge with an old army buddy of Chan's who lives with his harem surrounded by guns and ammo. There is a fairly gratuitous bit of sentimental group sex and soapy massage before the final sequences of carnage.

The fight sequences are superbly choreographed showing that John Woo knew his business even this early in his career, having said that the army of bad guys are strictly out of the rent-a-henchman school, who probably get shot, blown up, die, creep away, count to ten then jump up yelling for the next scene. Eddy Ko is a mixture of steely determination and tenderness for his son, and the wee lad who plays the part of junior is excellent, although his habit of legging it when the bullets fly does contribute to the wholesale slaughter of the mercenaries.

The extras package includes a couple of trailers, an interview with John Woo and a text tribute to actor and stuntman Lam Ching-ying.

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