A Hero Never Dies (1998)
The New York Asian Film Festival celebrated its 15th year, and with it came a surprise screening at the SVA Theater on 23rd Street, a theater most people don't even know about, which the School Of Visual Arts bought a while back. They use it for school reasons, and rent it out other times for festivals and other film related events. To give you an idea of how far the NYAFF has come, you have to take note of the fact that they SOLD OUT a surprise screening, charging $20 a ticket, and never told anyone what was playing. Obviously at the very least there is trust in the older movies they show!
The film turned out to be A Hero Never Dies, a macho crime movie based on warring gangs in the Chinese triads. The lead guy in each gang seem to have a past together, one we do not ever get to find out the backstory on. In the first shootout scene, we come to realize the leader of both gangs, Jack and Martin, know each other and bear some sort of a grudge, but were also possibly friends in the past. The shootout causes many casualties, and both leaders end up surviving. After passing on some messages back and forth, the two of them "run" into each other at a local bar. After some seriously macho posturing, in a scene you have to see to believe, they sit down with their respective girlfriends and spend the night drinking.
We get to meet their girlfriends a bit after they leave, which turns out to be interesting, as the girlfriends play an important role in a movie that on the surface seems to be about guys and how large their penises are. The movie looks like it is going to be a standard typical gangster type film, until a whole bunch of shit happens and the film gets turned on its head. This is NOT a criticism at all, in fact, it saves this film from being another typical movie about the same old tired cliches, which is funny, since the movie almost begs you to believe it's one big cliche.
I hate to be plot heavy when I write about a movie, as I find the surprise of things to be much more enjoyable, so I will leave the rest for you to discover. The movie is directed by Johnnie To, who has directed over 50 things at least, and still puts out movies to this day. His latest if called Three, and I plan to try and catch that this week, plus I have seen 5 of his other movies before. Although I did like them, and didn't actively dislike any in particular, they have always fallen a bit flat. This one is the shining star of his filmography, so far.
If you are familiar with the Japanese song Sukiyaki, originally done by Kyu Sakamoto, and covered in English by A Taste Of Honey, then expect to be bombarded with the song in this movie, although in a weird lounge jazz version with slightly wrong lyrics.
One last comment, something I rarely say in my life, but I almost feel like there could be an American remake of this, which, if all the casting was amazing, could be a great movie. But Hollywood could never do this, it would have to be some independent film backed with some money, or else it would just be a disaster like most remakes.
8 out of 10 stars, one of the three high points of this years New York Asian Film Festival.
Location : SVA Theater, Smaller theater (I think), in NYC
Date and time : Friday July 8th, 2016 at 8:40 PM
Format : 35mm print (from AFGA)
Audience : Sold out, audience loved it