Some films are so gloriously nostalgic, so wonderfully referential, such fabulous fun that you find yourself grinning like a loon from opening to closing credits. Call Of Heroes is one of those films.
The setting is China’s Warlord Era (1916-1928), where a stalwart lawmen (Sean Lau) faces off against a band of blood thirsty bandits who are eager to rescue their leader, Cao Shaolun, from the town jail. Shaolun – played with twitchy glee by Louis Koo – is the son of a local warlord and all kinds of crazy. Thrown into the mix is Eddie Peng’s scruffy drifter, Ma, and a group of orphan school kids, desperate to find refuge.
But it’s when Ma rides into town in a poncho, wearing his Man With No Name credentials loud and proud, that you really twig exactly what Director Benny Chan has in mind.
Call of Heroes is basically a Noodle Western, complete with a score that plays riffs on Morricone and a band of seven heroes ready to defend the beleaguered village.
The fight sequences, coordinated by the legendary Sammo Hung, dazzle. The set pieces are endlessly inventive – including a must-see battle on a mountain of gigantic wine jars. Each hero has his, or her, signature weapon and the one-to-one fights hark back to the very best ‘80s Hong Kong movies.
Eddie Peng brings a surprising subtlety to his role as the Eastward-esque outsider who is neither as cynical nor as disinterested as he appears. But it’s Lau who shines as the philosophising ‘sheriff’ prepared to risk all to protect his village.
Beneath the wuxia posturing there’s a serious message too: that for evil to flourish good men must do nothing. But, arguably, you don’t watch movies like Call Of Heroes for serious messages. You watch them for the ride – and Call Of Heroes is as breathtaking and as thrilling as any fairground rollercoaster. Let’s go round again!