"The two leads are solid evidence that there were Chow Yun-fats, Andy Laus and Tony Leungs in the 60's and 70's era of Hong Kong cinema."
- Mighty Peking Man
Anonymous Heroes (1971)
Director: Chang Cheh
Producer: Sir Run Run Shaw
Cast: David Chiang, Ti Lung, Ching Li, Ku Feng, Wang Chung, Tong Dik, Lo Mang
Running Time: 100 min.
Plot: This post-Chinese Revolution adventure of rebels battling warlords is a prime example of this production team's remarkable skill behind and in front of the camera.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
JOE909'S REVIEW: Most old school movies ask for a suspension of disbelief, but Anonymous Heroes asks you to abandon all concept of reality. If you buy into the film, you will be treated to a light-hearted (albeit violent) adventure, but if you don't, you'll be rolling your eyes for 90 minutes. I've found the best way to appreciate it is to treat it like an Airplane or Naked Gun-type movie, though I'm sure that was not Chang Cheh's aim.
David Chiang and Ti Lung are buddies who like to gamble, whore, and fight each other. Ku Feng appears as a representative from the resistance, but we are never told if he represents the Nationalists or the Communists. He wants to hire Chiang and Lung to steal a cargo shipment of rifles from the corrupt army, and deliver them to the resistance. We've already stumbled onto our first obstacle. Why would Feng want these two guys for such a huge job, guys who have nothing to do with the resistance? And why would Chiang and Lung accept so eagerly, even when they find out they won't be paid for the job? Chiang at least seems hesitant at first, but after Ku Feng gives him a half-hearted lecture, Chiang accepts the job. Chiang's girl Cheng Lee shows up in time to jump on board, even though she at first demands payment. But when she's told it will be to help a good cause, she's all for it. It's very hard to buy.
Here's where we get to the fun stuff. Cheng's father happens to be an officer in the army, and she tries to get two army cargo trucks from him. So, she basically emasculates him in from of his soldiers, pouting and demanding the trucks. And he gives in to her! Chiang and Lung then sneak onto the base and get some uniforms. Now their plan is in full swing. They next easily kidnap a general and escort him to the base that's holding the 3,000 rifles. Here we see the type of heroes we've been given: Chiang, all grins, shoots a soldier point blank, in cold blood, so Ku Feng can take his uniform. Never mind that such a close-range shot would leave a hole in said uniform, not to mention blood.
This leads to my favorite moments in the movie, as the two "anonymous heroes" take the general into the base and try to convince the dude in charge that they're supposed to pick up the rifles. You'd think they wouldn't fool anyone, two cocky guys who obviously have no military discipline, escorting a profusely-sweating and nervous general. And every time the kidnapped general doesn't do what they want, Chiang and Lung will put a pistol to his head, right in front of the guys they're trying to fool! And no one notices! It's sheer comic genius, though again I doubt this was Chang's intent.
But it gets better. The guy in charge won't budge unless he gets official documentation. So Chiang and Lung take off on borrowed motorcycles to get it! First of all, they don't even have a clue what this document is! And more importantly, they aren't even real soldiers! So there goes careful planning. You'd think the kidnapped general might take this moment to tell the guy in command that he's been abducted, but instead he just continues to comply with Ku Feng, who again threatens him with a pistol every few moments. And still no one notices. By this point I was rolling.
After several coincidental twists, our heroes finally do get the rifles, which are placed into their cargo trucks. Moments after taking off, the dictator in charge figures out what's going on, and we head into chase territory. More comedy ensues as Chiang, Lung, and Feng hold off several soldiers on horseback, shooting at them from the top of the train. The movie shows its age here, with Lung and Chiang trading "action hero" poses as they shoot at their pursuers. Eventually the train crashes, leading to the infamous shot of an obvious toy train dropping into a small pool of water. It looks very, very bad.
More hijinks ensue once the heroes get to their destination city. Feng has been killed en route, so the boys aren't sure who their contact is. They get fooled easily, of course, which leads to a melee in a gambling hall. Chiang again shows his incompetence in the martial arts, basically waving his arms around and bitch-smacking his opponents. Ti Lung looks much more believable. Chiang gets captured, meets the dictator, and falls for it when he's told he's free to go.
This of course leads to Chiang unknowingly leading the entire army to their hideout, and Chiang and Lung then take on all of them. Wave after wave of soldiers come after our two heroes, never once realizing that they could just shoot them. Instead they harmlessly swing their rifles or jab with their bayonets. Chiang and Lung decimate a full squadron of men in a scene so over the top in its unbelievability that you have to admire it.
But hey, this is a Chang Cheh movie, so you know how it's going to end. This one's just a bit more light hearted than most. Another fun element of the movie is spotting all the familiar faces in the cast. You'll even catch Wang Chung, the Delinquent himself, as an army officer. The gore factor isn't high, but there's a lot of that bright red Shaws blood flowing at the end. So in conclusion, the movie is enjoyable, but the severe lack of believability and utter stupidity of the main characters harms it in the end.
JOE909'S RATING: 7/10
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: The talents of director Chang Cheh, actors David Chiang and Ti Lung (known as "The Iron Triangle" for their line of successful films in the early 70's) are at their best in Anonymous Heroes. The two leads are solid evidence that there were Chow Yun-fats, Andy Laus and Tony Leungs in the 60's and 70's era of Hong Kong cinema. In fact, it's sad that most Asian film fans of today haven't even seen a single movie with the super-charismatic David Chiang; and most only know of Ti Lung for his achievements in the 'A Better Tomorrow' series or his role in 'Drunken Master II'. However, we can't totally put the blame on these 'fans' for this. Anonymous Heroes, along with many other Shaw Brothers classics, were unavailable to the public (at least in a decent, non-bootleg format) until Celestial brought them back from the dead in fully restored, widescreen remasters. Of course, the hard-work put into the discs are well-deserved considering the quality of the movie itself.
Anonymous Heroes is - at most - lighthearted, ambitious and adventurous; yet it still manages to deliver the perfect amount of action and ultra-violence that we love in Chang Cheh's movies. It's definitely one of the most fluidly-entertaining, Westernized-Shaw Brothers flicks around. The plot - about two hand-picked, bad-ass revolutionists who are given a mission to steal cases of rifles and ammo to further help the cause - is easily likable and will suck you in the minute we're introduced to the main characters. It's a film that wastes no time picking up the pace. It looks like a billion bucks with its lavish sets, costumes, and vehicles of the period. Even some things you might not expect, like train chases, horse chases, fun with motorbikes and situational comedic moments. Anonymous Heroes sometimes hint the Indiana Jones and Hogan's Heroes-type aura; it even manages to dance around the Spaghetti Western genre.
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 8/10