Notable Cast: David Chiang, Ti Lung, Ku Feng, Bolo Yeung, Lily Li, Lau Kar Wing
As a Chang Cheh fan, I’ve become accustomed to his style of direction and the various nuances of his films. One is apt to find fairly gory violence, lots of bigger than life characters, and a penchant to kill off anyone he thinks will make the greatest impact on the plot. However, I was not prepared for the roller coaster ride of plot twists, character shifts, and deaths that The Heroic Ones had in store. Right away, the film guns it for an epic war-time approach, but it’s the endless twists and turns of the plot that make this movie exhausting…in all of the best ways.
A warlord (Ku Feng) is using his thirteen adopted sons as generals in his massive army. Under the youthful spirit and effective leadership of the thirteenth son (David Chiang) these brothers in arms are a force of be reckoned with on the battlefield, but when an assassination attempt is botched by the brothers, they will find themselves at odds with another warlord and each other—a circumstance that may end up costing them their lives.
|Ku Feng. Who seems to be in EVERY Shaw Brothers film.|
Even with this going against the film, the pure charismatic screen presence of our main protagonists sells the film quite well. David Chiang, sporting some seriously 70s white fur boots, leads the film with his patented smirk and forceful demeanor, but it’s a movie-stealing performance from Ti Lung that gives the film its most impactful and emotional sequence. While Ti Lung’s character doesn’t get the best character back story (or any at all), a massive battle scene at the end of the second act where he must protect his father makes up for it. At this point, the body count has to reach well over one hundred (I would like to see someone do a kill counter on this movie…get to it, Internet!) and set against the epic visuals of a castle on fire in the background, Chang Cheh goes for broke here on both action and emotional terms, and the pay off is impressive.
Without giving too many spoilers away though, even this massive battle sequence cannot compare to one of the most shocking deaths (in concept and visually) that I have ever seen in a martial arts film that occurs in the third act. I had to scrape my chin off the floor at this point as it seemingly comes out of nowhere to sucker punch the audience. That’s all that I will say about that.