Still early in his career, Gordon Liu starred in Heroes of the East. The film was directed by Lau Kar-leung and provided an interesting spin on a very common subject. Gordon Liu would be forced to face several different opponents with various weapons, meaning he had to be a believable and relatable main character. This film also had Liu sport a wig to get rid of his typical “monk” image. Was there enough different in Heroes of the East to prove that Liu was more than a one-trick pony?
The story to Heroes of the East is simple, yet layered at the same time. It tackles the conflict between the Japanese and the Chinese, but on a more personal level. The conflict starts out between a husband and wife, who constantly bicker back and forth, but branches out into something bigger. However, I felt that the first and second half of the film were too different. I wish that the movie had focused on the latter in more detail instead of just skipping forward to the fights. It would have been great to see more of the critical thinking behind the battles than watching a couple bicker for 45 minutes.
One of the biggest issues I had with Heroes of the East were the characters, especially the wife. She is illogically thickheaded and doesn’t open up to any ideas. She’s nationalistic to a fault, which is probably what the makers were going for. That being said, she somehow ends up supporting her husband when he gets trapped in a tournament against 8 masters, even helping him train. It doesn’t make sense and I couldn’t really sink into the movie because of it. It’s obvious that the Chinese martial arts and thought-process is at the forefront here, but the story is hard to follow when key characters are out of sync. Ho Tao is not perfect either, though, and some of his ideas (like how women should fight) probably won’t sit well with some people.
If you are like any big action movie fan, you’re watching Heroes of the East of the action, and you won’t be disappointed. The fights are plentiful and amazing to watch. It’s stunning to see Gordon Liu fight so many battles in one film without any repeated ideas. Yes, some concepts are better than others, but the fights are fantastic and easily worth a view. Lau Kar-leung knew what he was doing and how to make it look good on screen. This is classic kung-fu at its best.
Own it, Watch it, Try it, or Skip it?
For those that have never seen it, Heroes of the East will be a good action movie with some interesting themes mixed in. It’s easy to see why it’s so highly regarded, but a few speed bumps keep this movie from being truly magnificent. If you only care about fights, buy this movie without any hesitation. However, if small things like plot and character development pick at your brain like they do mine, I suggest watching it and seeing what the hype is about. It’s still a good film and a shame to miss out on, but your enjoyment will be based on what your expectations are.