Hidden Heroes

So this is Ronald Cheng. His name has been floating through the Hong Kong film stratosphere of late, but I wasn’t really at all sure who he was. For some reason I had been avoiding his previous films under the assumption that he was yet another fluffy idol being pushed by a PR machine with hoards of Benetton wearing teenagers latching on to the latest craze. Not exactly. He could be mistaken for an upside down mop with tattoos or a scruffy scarecrow left in the field for too long. His face is oddly formless – like an oblong bland pudding with Mr. Potato parts stuck on for his eyes, mouth and nose - but his characterless features allow him to take on different looks very easily with added facial hair, glasses or off-beat expressions. And he definitely isn’t just out of diapers as so many of today’s current “actors” appear to be – in his early thirties he has been around for a while – first as a singer/songwriter (a protégé of Jacky Cheung) and then in a number of TVB series beginning in the late 1990’s. He made a number of forgettable (at least by me!) appearances in films as well – Bullets of Love, Dance of a Dream, Twelve Nights and My Wife is 18. I saw all of those but can’t even vaguely recall who he was in them.
While this was going on he also gained some notoriety off screen – a relationship with Miriam Yeung that has been off and on and rumors of liaisons with other actresses – Cecilia Cheung, Stephanie Che and even with one of those crumbling Cookies - as well as an imbroglio on Eva Airlines in which he got drunk and had to be subdued by the pilot with a flashlight! Then he hit the comedic jackpot in 2003 with Dragon Loaded and followed this with Super Model – both were hits at the box office and the buzz was that he was the successor to Stephen Chow. Of course, the same thing was said a few years ago regarding Nick Cheung and when was the last time any one went out of their way to see one of his movies – while Chow is still turning out blockbuster films. After seeing this film, my guess is that Cheng will go the way of the Cheung – he is a bit wearing to watch and one doesn’t feel any particular affection towards him. At the same time there are parts of this film that are quite funny – though whether that is due to the script or the actor I am not sure – and other reviews of the film indicate that this is a step down from both Dragon Loaded and Super Model – so perhaps those are both worth checking out at some point.
Hidden Heroes is a fairly silly parody of The Terminator that is much too long for its own good – 112 minutes – has a raggedy narrative and some major dead spots – but has a few scenes that are fairly amusing. Cheng is a cowardly cop – avoiding danger whenever possible – in one instance he hears a shot and so tells a witness to run away so that he can chase them and get out of harm’s way. He also has a Japanese girlfriend (Asuka Higuchi – who has managed to get in a number of Hong Kong productions) who confesses to him that she was a Geisha at one time though her Geisha dance more resembles something you might see in a skid row strip club. His life takes a radical turn when a robot from the future comes to pay him a visit. This robot comes in the form of Charlene Choi – showing perhaps that people in the future have lost their minds – I would want the Gillian version myself – who is programmed to always smile like a Moonie asking for your money and to have no emotions.
She gives Cheng a good news/bad news message. She will keep him alive until the 15th of the month – and then make sure he dies on that day. This has to be done because . . .  because – well it’s way too confusing to say, but I guess the salvation of mankind must be at stake. Other complications arise – he is arrested falsely by an oily corrupt Raymond Wong but is able to escape by taking another officer (Qin Hailu) hostage – and telling the surrounding officers to lay down their guns, take five steps back and hug each other. To get a phony passport he is told to find Ling – who turns out to be yet another Charlene Choi look-alike – oh oh – the prediction of his death seems to be coming true. Not to worry though – part of it involves a genius brother and he doesn’t have one – until his mother (Bonnie Wong) tells him she shacked up with Yuen Wah and they have an eight-year old son (Li Ting-fung – the kid from Three and every other movie that has a boy in it these days) who is a mega smartie pants.
None of this really matters though – partly because so little of it makes sense but mainly because what matters is whether you find the various set pieces amusing or not and the ratio for me was about 30/70 – there is just something funny to me about a grown man disguising himself as a schoolboy in a school uniform or the little brother taking diners hostage with a vegetable or Charlene inserting a tracking device up Ronald's rear end.  None of it is inspired like so many classic Stephen Chow routines – but it certainly is better than most of the recent stuff coming from Wong Jing or Cheng’s ex-girlfriend Miriam Yeung. Charlene who can often grate like a cheerful dentist is very likable here in her dual roles – as cute as a marshmallow as the ever-smiling robot and teddy bear sweet as the tough talking Ling.

My rating for this film: 5.5