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A Hero Never Dies

Shades of the two Sergios, Leone and Corbucci, are entertainingly exhumed in Johnnie To's "A Hero Never Dies," a slam-bang contempo Western about two assassins betrayed by former employers. Film lacks the psychological and emotional complexity of recent works that To and writer Wai Ka-fai have produced but is ideal latenight fest and video material for action aficionados.

With:
With: Leon Lai, Lau Ching-wan, Fiona Leung, Yo Yo Mung, Fong Ping, Yam Sai-koon, Keiji Sato, Michael Lam.

Shades of the two Sergios, Leone and Corbucci, are entertainingly exhumed in Johnnie To’s “A Hero Never Dies,” a slam-bang contempo Western about two assassins betrayed by former employers. Film lacks the psychological and emotional complexity of recent works that To and writer Wai Ka-fai have produced (“The Longest Nite,” “Expect the Unexpected,” “Too Many Ways to Be No. 1”) but is ideal latenight fest and video material for action aficionados.

In Thailand, rival triads Yam (Yam Sai-koon) and Fong (Fong Ping) have been dueling for a year without result. Their respective gunmen, Jack (Leon Lai) and Martin (Lau Ching-wan), have been badly wounded in the latest shootout; when the triads truce, Jack and Martin become disposable. Martin, now literally legless, is smuggled back to Hong Kong by his g.f. (Fiona Leung); Jack works in a Thai icehouse to support his scarred squeeze (Yo Yo Mung). The two finally team up to take out Fong. Typically oblique in narrative, and with dialogue ultra laconic, the movie is basically a series of superbly atmospheric set pieces, milking heroic codes from Eastwood to “El Cid.” Widescreen values are tops.

A Hero Never Dies

Hong Kong

Production: A Film City release (in Hong Kong) of a Milkyway Image production for Film City. (International sales: Milkyway Image, Hong Kong.) Executive producers, Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai. Directed by Johnnie To. Screenplay, Sze-to Kam-yun, Yau Nai-hoi.

Crew: Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Cheng Siu-keung; editor, Chan Chi-wai; music, Cacine Wong; art director, Bruce Yu. Reviewed at Mandarin Film Lab screening room, Kwun Tong, Hong Kong, Dec. 9, 1998. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Leon Lai, Lau Ching-wan, Fiona Leung, Yo Yo Mung, Fong Ping, Yam Sai-koon, Keiji Sato, Michael Lam.

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