The people of Northern Thailand are caught between Vietnamese forces from across the Cambodian border and the drug barons. The Drug Enforcement Agency approaches a retired soldier and asks him for help in capturing the chief of the drug lords in the region. His hazardous mission is threatened by both sides as the action builds up to a spectacular climax.
Heroes Shed No Tears is one of those films where the entire film is about the action that you see on screen. What there is of a plot is wafer thin at best - the good guy trying to bring a bad guy to justice, but he royally pisses off a rather psychotic army officer en route and soon has him on a tunnel visioned revenge mission. So if depth of story is your thing, go elsewhere.
It is no surprise that the action is such a strong factor of the film given that at the helm is the gunplay action master, John Woo. I cannot even give a set piece by set piece action sequence break down as there are so many. The film may only be 80-odd minutes long, but it fits more fired rounds of ammunition and a higher body count than most films over this length combined. While at times this is a plus point, it also can work as a detriment. With so much gunplay, violence and deaths, I noticed a feeling, or rather lack of, building up as the film progressed - desensitisation. I'm all for gratuitous violence, I love it on film, but to keep it interesting and engaging there is a magic element that must be present; variety. And that is what Heroes Shed No Tears doesn't quite have enough of.
I'm quite happy for there to be a little bit of artistic licence with reality when it comes to gunplay films such as this, but sometimes it does go just a little too far. Heroes Shed No Tears is another film where the good guys almost always seem to have some magical force field that stops bullets hitting them, either that or the bad guys have deliberately chosen the worst shooters available to them. If the good guys are able to pick off 10 bad guys with one burst of bullets from their machine guns, then why are the bad guys so completely unable to do the same thing? I know it is all just entertainment, but it is something that grates on me after a while.
Character wise, there are two that are worthy of mention. First is the psychotic army officer played by Lam Ching Ying. Psychotic puts a very fine point on this characters personality. After being partially blinded by Eddy Ko's Chan Chung, he sets himself and his army of a blind (no pun intended) mission of revenge. He is willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone to get what he wants. Ching Ying gives a very intense performance and as the character's pain builds up, so does the obsession with achieving his goal.
On the other end of the spectrum is the rather emotionally blank Chan Chung. Eddy Ko displays a devout soldier, who is able to keep his emotions well and truly buried as he carries out his mission. Glimmers of the human underneath are seen when he is with his son, who he has clearly brought up to incredibly strong and tough inside - a mirror of the man he is. When they interact we see the family love that is there, but in a family that is torn apart through the violence of the war going on around them.
Heroes Shed No Tears is a good film, but for the non-stop action that you witness there just isn't enough variety from the "standing up and shooting everyone" style.
Audio & Subtitles
The DVD from Megastar is quite unique in one way from all other Hong Kong DVDs that I own, in that it has an English dub on it. I acknowledge it for novelty value, but still think it should be ignored. The original language is Cantonese, so that's the way I watched it. It is a DD5.1 mix and on the whole it is all right. There is little in the way of sound separation except for bullets whizzing around the speakers in the frequent gunfights. The dialogue and effects are clear, but it does feel more like a mono mix as most of the sound is from the front centre speaker.
The subtitles are what you would expect from an older Hong Kong DVD. They are littered with spelling and grammar errors, but nothing too serious as to leave the text unintelligible. The meaning can always be understood, even if the word order or spelling is less than perfect.
Image wise, things are not great but fortunately not disastrous. The print looks rather washed out, with colours possibly not being as pronounced as they once were. Contrast levels are quite poor, with blacks being more grey and there being very little in the way of shadow detail. There are relatively frequent blemishes or speckles on the print itself and the image seemed fairly soft.
DVD & Extras
Bog standard fare here I'm afraid. Cast and Crew information and film synopsis in both English and Chinese, the theatrical trailer and trailers for four other films, that's it.
A non-stop war violent bloodbath would be a suitable way to describe Heroes Shed No Tears and for those that are looking for that, you could do far worse. This is a decent action film, but just lacks the variety to make it a 'must see again' film.