The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993) poster

The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993)

Rating:

(Se Diu Ying Hung: Dung Sing Sai Jau)


Hong Kong. 1993.

Crew

Director – Jeffrey Lau, Action Director – Sammo Hung, Based on the Novel by Louis Cha, Producer – Tsai Mu Ho, Photography – Peter Pau, Music – James Wong, Production Design – William Chang Suk Ping. Production Company – Block 2 Pictures/Scholar Films Inc/Jet Tone Films.

Cast

Leslie Cheung (Huang Yaoshi), Tony Leung Ka-fai (Duan Zhixing), Tony Leung Chiu-wai (Ouyang Feng), Jacky Cheung (Hong Qijong), Kenny Bee (Wang Chongyang), Brigitte Lin (Third Princess), Joey Wang (Suqiu), Tony Leung (Chiu Wai), Carina Lau (Zhou Botong), Maggie Cheung (Imperial Master)


Plot

The villainous Ouyang Feng seeks to usurp the throne of the Third Princess. The princess realises that her martial arts skills are not adequate to defend against the attack and sets off on a quest to the White Bone Cave to find the Book of Yin. She uses a pair of flying boots to travel there. This attracts the attention of the martial trainee Huang Yaoshi whose girlfriend Suqiu immediately becomes jealous of the princess. Also becoming involved is the beggar king Hong Qijong and the gay martial artist Zhou Botong whose lover he believes has been killed by the princess. All of these parties come together in the search for the book.


The Eagle Shooting Heroes was an entry amid Hong Kong’s Wu Xia cycle of the 1980s/90s that had been created by films like Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), Mr Vampire (1985) and A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), among others. (For more detail, see Wu Xia Films). The film was shot in and around the making of Wong Kar-Wai’s sprawling and over-budgeted Wu Xia epic Ashes of Time (1994). To help recoup cost overruns on that film, the cast of Ashes of Time agreed to shoot another film, which was quickly thrown together and released to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

As might be expected of any of Jeffrey Lau’s films (see below for a list of these), The Eagle Shooting Heroes takes place at a madcap pace. It is an exhausting full tilt barrage of manic swordfight sequences all alternated or frequently combined with slapstick humour. In the opening scenes, the combatants engage in an array of standard Wu Xia heroics that come with over-the-top moves like a Tsunami Punch, Toad Style (which involves a combatant leaping into action like a hopping bullfrog with face puffed out) and two lovers who use variously the Flirty Eye and Mushy Love sword styles.

There is no real plot to the film. At most, the film resembles the then recent hit New Dragon Gate Inn (1992) with various parties all coming together at a locale (everybody stays at an inn in the middle of the film) with differing purposes, frequently to eliminate each other. However, all of this gets spun as slapstick humour that gets so frenetic that it becomes confusing – I don’t, for instance, give an absolute guarantee that the above plot description is 100% accurate as it is frequently difficult to tell characters apart from each other. And then there are just random bits like the running around the cave, which has a trio of characters dressed in gorilla and bird suits involved for some reason.

Jacky Cheung, Joey Wang and Maggie Cheung in The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993)
(l to r) Jacky Cheung, Joey Wang and Maggie Cheung

Amid this, there is some madcap gay humour – this may be the first gay character in a Hong Kong film. It is not exactly a positive portrayal – all about a straight man’s horror as the gay character tries to get him to say he loves him. Much Hong Kong humour is also about making fun of people that are disfigured or ugly and so here we have one character who spends the entire time having fun made of the fact that his lips have swollen to the point they resemble sausages.

Everything culminates on a mad free-for-all involving one character descending from heaven, various power punches and invisibility moves, martial moves that emulate shuffling a deck of cards and end with one character placing his hand in another’s mouth and swinging him around, before all parties come together in a celebration of the Chinese New Year.

Jeffrey Lau’s other genre films include:- the true-life serial killer film The Hong Kong Butcher (1985); The Haunted Cop Shop (1987) and The Haunted Cop Shop II (1988) and the unrelated Mortuary Blues (1990), all featuring cops versus various monsters; Mortuary Blues (1990) also featuring cops versus monsters; All For the Winner (1990) and All For the Winner 2/The Top Bet (1991), gambling comedies about people with clairvoyant abilities; the Wu Xia film The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993); the two-part adaptation of Journey to the West, A Chinese Odyssey Part 1: Pandora’s Box (1994) and A Chinese Odyssey Part 2: Cinderella (1995); the Chow Yun Fat fantasy comedy Treasure Hunt (1994); the ghost comedy Out of the Dark (1995); the historical fantasy Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002); Second Time Around (2002), another gambling fantasy; the martial arts fantasy A Chinese Tall Story (2005); the comedy Metallic Attraction: Kung Fu Cyborg (2009); the romantic comedy The Fantastic Water Babes (2010); the time travel/Wu Xia film Just Another Pandora’s Box (2010); East Meets West (2011), a comedy wherein Eastern deities become superheroes; A Chinese Odyssey Part 3 (2016); and Kung Fu League (2018) in which legendary martial arts heroes are summoned to aid a nerd.


Trailer here


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