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

  2. Cold….very cold…. :-(


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