Seven Warriors (1989) [Blu-Ray]
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China's warlord era '30s, many soldiers banditry, nuisance farmers, resulted in hardship. Guangxi to defend their homes in a small village hired seven distinctive paladin, and resist the bandits violated. Many villagers and paladin occur during friction, everyone is not unity, resulted bandits win. Fortunately, the villagers wake up to the last, one mind without fear paladin joint heroic defeat the bandits.
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Adam Cheng stars as respected Chinese military commander who puts aside his binge drinking to put together a motley crew of warriors. The band of soldiers consists of various types: the handsome, capable second-in-command (Max Mok); a by-the-book soldier (Jacky Cheung); a kick-ass marksman/kung-fu artist (Lam Kwok-Bun); the jolly, money-grubbing old-timer (Wu Ma); the large, lovable lout (Shing Fui-On); and the pseudo-intellectual country boy (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), whose innocence and righteousness are the audience's twin anchors. Their opponent: ex-comrade-in-arms Lo Lieh, who is obviously a bad guy because he has a massive mole with hair sticking out of it.
For sixty minutes, Seven Warriors features minor action, routine character development, and obligatory plot setup. Then, there's forty minutes of tense standoffs, heroic bloodshed, masculine righteousness, a mounting body count, and other assorted stuff which you might remember from Seven Samurai. Except this movie is in color, and it's not as good as Seven Samurai. The film also lacks cachet: these guys are not iconic figures like Japanese samurai are. Instead, they're just ex-soldiers with more cartoonish personalities. Overall, the acting is nothing to write home about, but the actors bring requisite charisma and likability to their roles. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is convincingly innocent and lovably righteous, and Max Mok, Adam Cheng and even Lam Kwok-Bun are cooly charismatic.
The supporting cast helps; having guys like Shing Fui-On and Wu Ma fill out the smaller roles helps do away with a lot of time-consuming character development, and director Terry Tong can cut straight to the big stuff. To be more specific, the big stuff is a not-so-interesting love triangle between Max Mok, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and a token female character, and of course the climactic battle where the bad guys show up and are dealt with by the warriors. There are minor conflicts between some of the men, and some threatened dissension from villagers who don't trust the seven warriors, but unlike Seven Samurai, the details don't speak to a greater thematic whole. The themes of honor, brotherhood and the pathetic weakness of man are given only cursory attention. Such lack of depth is to be expected; it's a safe bet that Terry Tong was never mistaken for Akira Kurosawa.
There are other glaring debits: Sammo Hung gets a top credit for a two-minute nothing of a cameo, and some of the subplots of the film are as interesting as day-old bread. Originality and genuine emotional surprise are not present either. If one were to compile a list of Hong Kong's most visceral rollercoaster action flicks of the late eighties and early nineties, Seven Warriors would never be among them. But for what it is--a B-movie remake of a genuine action-adventure classic--the film is decent enough. Thanks to the familiar genre storyline, the all-star cast and the bullets-and-bloodshed violence (which is choreographed in that much-beloved hyper-realistic Hong Kong-style), Seven Warriors is able to bypass its banal production to become an entertaining, though messy Hong Kong action flick. Seven Warriors is no classic, but it's not bad at all. (Kozo 2004 lovehkfilm.com)
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “The Warlord Era: where desperate soldiers have become thieves and bandits, leaving towns – and lives – in ruins. The villagers of Guangxi rise up, hiring seven warriors to take up arms against the marauders and save their home.”
If you’ve seen Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI, then you’re already familiar with this story. Also, if you’ve seen THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, then you’re equally familiar with it. That isn’t to say that yet one more remake of that legendary first take of this tale by Kurosawa is unnecessary; instead I’d point out that the story of villagers who eventually have to learn to fight for themselves has a theme many storytellers find universal. Great stories adapt very well across different cultures, and Terry Tong (aka Sammo Hung, who appears briefly in the film’s opening sequence) has done a terrific job bringing this version to cinematic life.
And because it was part and parcel of the Hong Kong New Wave in Film perhaps SEVEN WARRIORS is definitely worth a look. I think it rather exceptionally combines a healthy amount of traditional film elements that Chinese filmmakers had already explored but it did so with a new, hyperkinetic, fully realized look that heralded how much times were changin’ for that great nation.
SEVEN WARRIORS (1989) is produced by Maverick Films. DVD distribution is being handled by the ever-reliable Well Go USA Entertainment. (Seriously, their import catalogue is to die for.) For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Cantonese spoken language release with English subtitles available. (There is no English-dubbed track.) As for the technical specifications? The sights and sounds come fast and furious in the latter half of the flick, along with some impressive cinematography that signaled a whole new era in Hong Kong filmmaking. Lastly – if it’s special features you want – then prepare for the disappointment as there isn’t a single one there: a big miss, but what are you gonna do?
RECOMMENDED. Sure, it’s a bit dated as today’s standards go, but so very much of Terry Tong’s SEVEN WARRIORS follows every thematic beat of Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI that it remains a remake worth a view. Some of the humor may seem more than a bit out-of-place, but culturally much of it harkens back to a time when going to the movies was all about having a great time; on that score, the flick delivers.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of SEVEN WARRIORS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.