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Hidden Hero
box art for the Chinese Hidden Hero videotape
Chinese video
box art
. Hidden Hero
Chris Mercer Takes a Look at
the Most Recent Offering
from Director Chang Cheh

[from Eastern Heroes Special Edition #2]
Eastern Heroes
the cover of Eastern Heroes Special Edition #2
Special Edition #2

NOTE: This film is currently available from amazon.com, Hong Kong Video, and Tai Seng Video Marketing, subtitled in English!

From Eastern Heroes Special Edition #2 (Shaws Special), pp. 21-22:

Hidden Hero:
Chris Mercer Takes a Look at the Most Recent Offering from Director Chang Cheh

Starring Tung Chi Wah, Tu Yu Ming, Hsu Shao Lung, Chow Lung
Directed and produced by Chang Cheh
Chang Ho Film Co., 1993

Yet another in a long line of classics from mega-influential director Chang Cheh, the man who crafted such all-time epics as Vengeance, Boxer From Shantung, Shaolin Martial Arts, Chinatown Kid, Five Deadly Venoms, Crippled Avengers (aka Mortal Combat), Five Element Ninjas (aka Super Ninjas) and countless others. This particular film is also the finest showcase yet for Chang's new crew, collectively known as the Baby Venoms, a group of incredibly talented acrobats and martial artists.

Mu Yun Chi (Tung Chi Wah) was once a top weaponsmith, unequalled in his profession. After one of his customers, Mr. Yuen, decided to try his new sword out on Mu's back, the weaponsmith hid himself away, becoming an anonymous blacksmith. The blacksmith's peace is shattered when top killer "Flying Daggers" Siu Chun arrives on his doorstep, asking Mu to make him six daggers to replace his stolen ones. As Siu Chun disovers, Mu has long refused to have anything to do with the art of weapon making.

Although Mu refuses, Siu Chun's request is backed up by "The Beauty" Lo Qing Qing, who brings the blacksmith a present -- a hand. It belongs to Yuen, the man who forced Mu into anonymity. Mu finds out from his old friend King Long San (the top police chief) and his daughter Xiao Yu, that the reason the martial world is in upheaval is because a group of thieves have stolen the royal tribute from Korea. Later, the man responsible for the tribute's safety, "Mr. Generosity" Fang Chi Qing, asks Mu to get the item back. As a matter of principle, Mu turns Fang down.

The four thieves decide not to sell tribute (a jade horse), but gamble for it instead. The man in charge is "King of Gamblers" Si Chik. He has hired a top knife man, Xiao Fei, to protect him and set up the thieves, so that he can take the horse and any other bits of booty lying around. Siu Chun finds out about this intended double cross and decides to get a cut of the action, which puts him at odds with Xiao Fei. To help her father's investigation, Xiao Yu gets herself hired by Si Chik at Eagle mansion, so she can spy on the forthcoming game. Her presence leads to a romance with Xiao Fei.

Whilst all this is taking place, Yuen arrives at Mu's shop, minus his right hand, and begs the armourer to build him a metal one. After much groveling on Yuen's part, Mu eventually agrees on the condition that Yuen helps him, to redeem his past misdeeds. Mu decides it's time to enter the fray and find out the truth about the robbery.

Chang Cheh has basically remade his Fu Sheng/Venoms/Li Yi Min classic Life Gamble, but has added a few more plot twists to the already complex story of the earier version. His directing skills have not diminished with the passage of time and the dramatic scenes have all the bite of his Shaw Brothers masterpieces. Also returning in strong from is Chang's career-long interest in brotherhood and loyalty.

The actors are uniformly excellent, probably due to most of them coming from a Peking Opera background. Unfortunately, as most of them are practically unknown, it's hard to credit individuals with the respect they deserve. However, Tung Chi Wah, who plays the lead role in all the Baby Venoms movies, can get the respect and is a tip for the top. His portrayal of the downtrodden but still noble Mu is a truly great one.

What of the action? Those who love the tedious over-wired and uninventive fights of the pigtail flicks that followed in the wake of the Once Upon a Time series [I, II, III, IV, V, VI] will derive little pleasure from the crisp martial artistry on show here. Those who have become bored by the unending crop of "new wave" traditional films and yearn for the flow of Shaw Brothers-style action will be in seventh heaven. The whole cast to show off their stunning acrobatics and kung fu in a series of splendid martially-motivated sequences.

Tung Chi Wah fulfils a second role as choreographer, and shows remarkable inventiveness for the job. The action is evenly distributed between fists and weaponry, and handled with unbelievable ease by all. The final scene is a real treat, with Tung Chi Wah having a large scale battle with a group of spear-wielding nutters, very reminiscent of the action seen in Chang Cheh's Flag of Iron. This is a real return to traditional kung fu film-making and values.

Return to Reviews of Movies Directed by Chang Cheh
Return to Chang Cheh Filmography | Return to Baby Venoms Filmography

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