Eagle Shooting Heroes
Reviewed by YTSL
This movie stars virtually the entire main
cast of "Ashes of Time" (only Charlie Yeung is missing out of that desert
epic's eight lead actors) plus Joey Wong, Veronica Yip and Kenny Bee.
Its crew -- which includes action director, Sammo Hung -- seems also to
have been majorly culled from the movie "prequel" of Louis Cha's "Eagle
Shooting Heroes". Although Wong Kar Wai is not the director of this
effort, he is its executive producer.
It would, however, serve the (potential) viewer
well to not expect this production to be at all like "Ashes of Time".
Instead, the literal -- and longer Chinese -- title of this movie, EAGLE
SHOOTING HEROES: EAST BECOMES WEST is a great indicator that virtually
everything in this work is the "yang" to "Ashes of Time's" "yin" (or vice
versa). Alternatively put: This is neither a direct copy nor parody
of Wong Kar Wai's masterpiece; rather, it is a wholesale inversion...which
can shock the unprepared (N.B. The first time I watched it, I couldn't
laugh because my mouth was hanging wide open for too much of the movie!).
Thus, in as much as "Ashes..." was deep, deliberate,
dramatic and understated (if not dark), "Eagles" is --deliberately -- shallow,
frenzied, comedic and garish (in tone as well as color-wise). Whereas
the fight sequences in "Ashes..." were usually filmed in a slow-motion,
spliced, artistic way, that of "Eagle Shooting Heroes..." are largely fast-paced
yet (pro)long(ed) bedlam which are meant to elicit laughter and smirks
much more than leave one awe-struck. Then there is the amusing matter
of Leslie Cheung relinquishing the dramatic role he assumed in "Ashes..."
(that of Ouyang Feng/Malicious West) to a Tony Leung, to comically play
Huang Yao Shi/Evil East (a part inhabited by the other Tony Leung in Wong
Kar Wai's masterpiece) in "Eagles..."...
As can be seen by that last example, there are
a lot of in-jokes -- and allusions to parts played in other movies, including
but not confined to "Ashes...", by individual cast members -- in this mindbogglingly
zany affair (there's not just cross-dressing, wire-fu, vomiting and bathroom
jokes galore but multiple hallucinations, a human-sized animal trio consisting
of a dinosaur, gorilla and macaw, Cantopop sequences, linguistic "forays"
into English and Taiwanese, etc.). As such, it definitely does seem
to me that this piece really can only be appreciated if this is NOT one's
first Hong Kong, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, etc. movie. If one
is sufficiently prepared, however, it is a treat in itself to watch a movie
in which Brigitte is the glamorous Third Princess who -- at some point
-- thinks that "Imperial Wizard" Maggie is her father! :)
In sum: Granted that I've still a relative
Hong Kong movie neophyte, especially with regards to the really weird stuff
(I've only seen three Stephen Chow comedies and am still leery of checking
out the "Fantasy Mission Force"), but I enjoyed this majorly loony production.
However, I will add the caveat that I tend to also not be unappreciative
of -- not just not be offended by -- the movies of Wong Jing...Perhaps
the bottom line with regards to this movie is this: If you enjoy
watching established stars acting silly, and truly looking like they are
having a good time doing so, then this could well be THE film for you!
Oh, and if you're wondering about the plot, don't bother!!!
My rating for the film: 8.