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.