HEROES RETURN (2021) review

Du Xiu Bin’s Heroes Return marks Yuen Biao’s first big-screen role in seven years (if one doesn’t count a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Sammo Hung’s My Beloved Bodyguard), which makes for a frustrating observation: it’s not just that this once vital force of Hong Kong cinema has become a sporadic presence. It’s also that when he does re-appear, it’s in such a mediocre little actioner. The lead is Ray Lui (another legend of eighties and nineties Hong Kong cinema) as Wu Wei, a former soldier who heads into the Thai jungle to rescue the prisoners of a pharmaceutical company headed by Zuo Manqing (Kathy Chow), who intends to harvest their bone marrow for an experimental, life-extending drug. Accompanying Wu are his wife Zhilan (Raquel Xu) – a former employee of the company – and Jinzi (Chu Xu), a feisty local. Soon they’re joined by Gao Tianming (Yuen Biao), an undercover cop long held captive by Du Xie (Pavarit Mongkolpisit), a human trafficker who supplies the pharmaceutical company with its human stock.

Director Du Xiu Bin, who’s been an assistant action director on one or two Jackie Chan films, directs with basic efficiency but a total lack of flair and the bare minimum energy. The plot is introduced so bluntly and confusedly, one feels like having stumbled into the second part of a mediocre diptych, thereafter consisting of regular but rather listless action scenes interspersed with cringe-worthy scenes of people screaming at the sky after losing a loved one. Only the action finale somewhat raises the pulse despite its nondescript ‘compound corridors’ setting: there, the feisty, bow-wielding Chu Xu proves a highlight, stealing the film (petty theft indeed) from a remarkably lean and energetic (he was 63 at the time of filming) but blandly stoic Ray Lui and a painfully underused Yuen Biao – sure, let’s hire one the very best screen fighters in the world and have him hold his belly in agony while everybody around him fights up a storm. The musical cherry-picks from high-end western films and series (M83’s Oblivion and Dominik Scherrer’s An Inspector Calls, among others), only serve to underline how lackluster what unfolds onscreen is.

Long Story Short: A mediocre little actioner that wastes the considerable – and nowadays too rarely seen – talents of Yuen Biao. *1/2

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3 Comments

  1. Predicts score…
    Checks score…
    Leaves happy! ;-) :-P

    Reply
  2. Cold….very cold…. :-(

    Reply

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