Jack and Martin admire each other, but they are enemies belonging to two underworld leaders. One night, the two heroes accidentally meet in a bar and share the music and wine. After that, the two gangs fight in Thailand. Martin is seriously wounded and Jack is crippled. Both are rejected by their leaders, and their lovers are killed. It is the time for the heroes to team up and fight back...
Of late I've become a bit of a fan of Leon Lai; I thought he was good in Infernal Affairs III and more so in Seven Swords and it was based on this that I bumped A Hero Never Dies up my priority list for viewing. On paper this was a great film, directed by Johnny To, who has had more hits than misses in my opinion, and starring Leon Lai and another favourite Lau Ching Wan. The front cover promises guns and I was looking forward to a good film.
I don't know whether I've become more critical the past few months, but it just seems that I can rarely find that "good film" quality in most of the films I've been watching and A Hero Never Dies is no exception. The story plods along at a reasonable pace and the main characters of Jack ad Martin are introduced and developed early in the proceedings. The key moment for character development and for detailing their relationship was in the bar, where they each offer the other a sample of their wine. What ensues is a rather entertaining game of breaking the others glass with a coin before they get a chance to drink from it. This game was fun and novel but, after 4 or 5 shattering glasses, somewhat tiresome. This game also doubles as the calm before the storm, as from here on in the film gets rather violent.
As with many other Hong Kong films centring around people who operate on the far side of the law, a main theme running through the film is the loyalty amongst the gangsters. Despite the brutal killings and other illegal activities that take place on an alarmingly frequent basis, certain members of the organisations (and almost always the more senior ones who are the best at what they do) do adhere to this brand of morals. It is these morals and code of honour that defines who is the "good" guy and the "bad" guy. Truth be told, all characters in this film, with the exception of the females, are bad guys as they all will kill where necessary, but the ones that we perceive as being bad are the ones who backstab and do not have the code of honour.
With the two leads being men that are more than handy with a gun or two in their hands, it is no surprise that A Hero Never Dies offers many gunfight scenarios for the viewer. Most are entertaining, but if you've seen lots of other gunfight films, then there will be nothing here to set this out from the rest. Where the film is a little different is that it deals the character of Martin a cruel blow early in the film, with him having both of his legs amputated below the knee. This situation does lend itself to a "never before seen" type scenario, with the crippled Martin still in vengeance mode and seeking to kill those that wronged him. The scenes with Lau Ching Wan training, and wheeling himself around by his arms on his trolley are very well done and look convincing, but this novelty could not save the film from its decent-but-still-quite-average elements elsewhere.
Yes, the acting is good from the leads, yes, there is quite a lot of action and violence, but the film still left a bland after taste. Once the film was over I was neither glad I had watched the film or disappointed. To me it was simply average stuff that I can now tick of the list as having seen, but am highly unlikely to watch again.
Audio & Subtitles
The whole DVD is fairly typical of Universe DVDs in that the 5.1 audio track is decent, with use of the front and rear surrounds frequently, but not often exclusively. Bullets do fly around the soundstage, maybe not as much as they could have, but still reasonably effectively. Speech is clear and volume levels seemed well balanced.
There were reasonably frequent spelling and grammar errors, but no major mistakes that rendered the meaning of the sentence unclear.
The film transfer was quite good for the most part. There was the odd bit of dirt on the print and in some scenes the colour looked a little washed out. Some of the darker scenes may have had a little colour bleeding, but not overly so. Detail seemed reasonable for a letterboxed transfer and grain levels weren't that noticeable.
DVD & Extras
There are a few extras here, some typical others maybe not quite so. There is the standard trailer for the film and also trailers for The Crisis, The Eagles and City Of Glass. There are Stars' Files in Chinese and English for Leon Lai, Lau Ching Wan (as Sean Lau), Yoyo Mong, Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai. There are 4 short interview segments with Yoyo Mong subtitled in English and Chinese asking her questions about and relating to the film, and lastly there is an NG Footage section. This in most other films is a selection of bloopers and the like, whereas here while there are a few blooper type scenes, the rest just seem as though they are unused takes.
If you are wanting to watch a ok film with a fair bit of violence, but have nothing else on your shelf to see, then A Hero Never Dies could be worth watching. But I think before it is one to go for, there are lots of other, better films out there to give a viewing to first.