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人民英雄 (1987)
People's Hero

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 07/20/2009
Summary: Better than expected

A interesting movie,not your typical bank robbery movie.
The other reviewers have said enough, this is a great little crime drama which focusses on characters and situations rather than storytelling.
Both Tony leungs play smaller parts than expected, this movies main focus is on Ti Lung.ITs one of the better movies ive seen all this year of 2009

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 04/30/2008
Summary: Essential

A pair of youths (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Ronald Wong) plan to hold up a bank but lose their nerve at the last moment – only to have their hand forced by circumstance and have to carry their plan through after all. Their botched effort to steal the money begins a siege that career criminal Koo (Ti Lung) cannot afford. Koo intervenes and juggles the hostages, the would-be robbers, the police and his former girlfriend - who is imprisoned for a crime he himself is responsible for.

Right from the start, you know this is a little different from the usual Hong Kong action movie with its stark titles and dark, foreboding music. The reason only becomes clear quite late in the movie – this is not an action movie at all; rather PEOPLE'S HERO is a taut dramatic piece that survives without ever having to throw in a few kung fu moves (even though, of course, Ti Lung is more than capable of such antics). It also avoids many pitfalls of Hong Kong movie plotting and pacing, and the story genuinely moves along at an excellent pace by introducing new elements and problems at precisely the right moment. By that, I mean that the story actually evolves in a remarkably realistic way (some logistical anomalies aside) and what you expect to happen invariably DOESN'T happen.

The characters, aside from Ti Lung’s Koo, are introduced at the start, and they do seem horribly clichéd. Basically, the bank’s staff and customers are given a minute or two’s spotlight to give a slight insight to their character – there’s a bankrupt shopkeeper, a spoilt schoolgirl and her vacant mother, an obnoxious, arrogant young man, a rich businessman, etc. These tired old stereotypes (hardly a likeable one in the whole bunch) threaten to drag the film down a level or two but are not given the opportunity because the focus stays quite solidly on the two young robbers and Koo.

The theme of the film is that everyone is a victim, and this is nowhere more evident than in the two youths who are forced to steal to live. Ah Sai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) is the older, more responsible of the two, while Boney (Ronald Wong – Hong Kong’s Peter Lorre!) is a hopeless liability prone to fits of epilepsy. Both are sympathetic characters, but pale when compared to Koo, who was hoping to skip the country before the robbers decided to rob the bank. Koo is plagued by demons from his cop-killing past and is heartbroken over his girlfriend’s imprisonment (we learn she was jailed for carrying his gun). His interaction with the hostages sets up the character as a practical, reasonable man to whom the hostages quickly like and cooperate with.

Obviously, the police are aware of what’s going on inside the bank, and Captain Chan (Tony Leung Ka-Fai – that’s right, both Tony Leungs for the price of one!) tries to foil the robbery. He has a personal grudge against Koo, and will stop at nothing to get him – dead or alive. This does make the moral message of the film (cops bad, robbers good) a little obvious, but things get more complicated when Koo is forced (once more, through practical necessity) to show why he’s such a wanted criminal, and, without going into too much detail as to spoil the film, the line becomes blurred again.

There’s a lot of talk about this being the Hong Kong DOG DAY AFTERNOON (the IMDB has just one plot keyword for this film – “remake”), but let me tell you right now the similarities are superficial. PEOPLE'S HERO stands quite nicely on its own merits, thank you very much. I’ve always like the kind of dramatic film that takes place over a relatively short space of time or has one location, and this is a little of both. The characters are memorable, the plot taut and lean (the film runs like a panther for its 82 minutes’ running time) and the whole thing bristles with freshness – even 21 years after it was made.

Unfortunately, the recent DVD edition from Mei-Ah ports the original subtitles – and they are pretty bad. I remember some of them from the first time I watched the movie over ten years ago, and it’s a terrible shame that someone couldn’t have cleaned them up for this release. Unintentionally funny subtitles are usually great, but in a dramatic piece like this, they are glaringly out of place and hampers the tension.

It’s unlikely we’ll see a proper release in the West, as there’s no real action to speak of and it probably isn’t “serious” enough to be classed as "World Cinema" and that’s quite a loss. PEOPLE'S HERO is a great little film with a fantastic performance by Ti Lung, who was really hitting his stride at this point in his career, and an early standout performance by “Little Tony”.

See it.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/31/2007

People's Hero failed to make much of an impact with local audiences upon its' release in 1987. And, despite it winning two Hong Kong Film Awards for acting (via Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Elaine Kam), it's gone virtually un-noticed for the twenty years since. That's a shame, since People's Hero is a very solid crime picture that manages to be very exciting, even though there is next to no action during the entire running time.

The movie is, on the surface, about a bank robbery that goes horribly wrong. However, like many productions done by Derek Yee and John Shum, there is a deeper subtext about Hong Kong society as a whole. People's Hero's protagonist is Sai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), a young man who takes to robbery to pay off his debts. Things start to go south when his partner, Boney (Ronald Wong) has an epiletic fit which leads to a shootout that attracts the cops.

Sai is ready to give himself up when one of the customers produces a very large gun -- turns out he's a very nasty criminal named Sunny Koo (Ti Lung). Sunny takes the customers (and former robbers) hostages and begins to negotiate with the police, who are led by Chan (Tony Leung Ka-Fai). Sunny's main demand is that his girlfriend Lotus (Elaine Kam) be let out of jail; Chan agrees, but Chan's superior officer, Cheung (Paul Chun Pui), doesn't plan to let Sunny go so easily.

That's a fairly dense plot summary for what would usually be a standard crime movie, and it's all the more amazing that it's all packed into an eighty-minute package. There's no bloat at all here. Every scene and every line is important to the film. New directors (as well as many veterans) would be well-advised to take a look at this picture and realize that making a movie three hours long doesn't necessarily make it good.

And if you thought the above summary spoiled things, don't worry. There are a lot of little twists and turns here that a short review couldn't even hope to delve into. The hostages each represent a certain segment of life in Hong Kong at the time. There's the loud Triad, the nouveau riche Mainlander, the east Asian immigrant, the bratty teenager, the stubborn old lady, and so forth. On the surface, this seems like a cheesy gimmick, but Derek Yee really makes it work, and seeing the interaction the hostages have between themselves is just as interesting as the deadly game the criminals and cops are playing with each other.

There's nothing really flashy at all about People's Hero. In fact, it's pretty low-budget and cheap-looking. But it's something a lot of the recent over-blown Hong Kong productions aren't. It's exciting without insulting the viewer's intelligence, and once again proves that a skilled film-maker working with talented actors will win over CGI-gasms (no matter how much money is thrown at the effects) any day of the week. With Mei Ah's recent DVD release, a new audience has a chance to take a look at this film, which is definitely one of the hidden gems of the "golden age".

[review from]

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 06/18/2002
Summary: Excellent

[People’s Hero]

A film with Derek Yee behind it has got to be good, and People’s Hero is certainly no exception, with main performances by Ti Lung, both Tony Leungs, and produced by John Shum, there is little to go wrong.

The film is basically the HK version of ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ which is about a bank robbery that goes wrong. Tony Leung (Chiu Wai) and Ronald Wong are two young men in desperation after their bank robbery plans go wrong. It would have been pulled off too if Ronald hadn’t had an epilepsy attack, drawing the attention to the two robbers before they had even started. The film goes on just as the original film it is based on (assuming you have seen that), with Ti Lung becoming the ‘man in the middle’ as such, who manages to get out of sight from the robbers and plans his own way of bringing the robbers to justice, but there is a lot more to him than first meets the eye, as the film soon takes another twist leaving the police unsure who is the real threat, the robbers or psycho, Ti Lung. Tony Leung (Ka Fai) and Paul Chun are the police detectives working on getting the hostages out safely.

As far as performances go, well, it took along time in his career to improve, but Ti Lung finally made it as a decent actor a few years before this, and this is one of his better films. Not his best mind, but not bad. I think Tony Leung (Chiu Wai) is the real star shiner in this, which is not surprising that this is the film that really launched his acting career. Leung Ka Fai not too far behind too, though his part was not nearly as big as it should have. Acting pretty good all round in fact, in perhaps one of the most underrated of HK films to ever be released.

The only flaw about the film, is the fact that it only lasts about 75 minutes (and I do have the full length version), and the story wasn’t stretched enough as the original film was, leaving so much time for other things that Derek Yee and John Shum must have just run out of ideas, as the film simply ends when it was just begging for something big to happen.

To conclude, this film is near masterpiece quality, and to me was always one of my favourite real films (let’s just forget about comedies for a minute now!), not far from classics like Bullet In The Head, A Better Tomorrow, etc. Although strictly speaking the film is copied from another American film, this was still pretty fresh for the HK film industry, which has never really released anything like it since.

A great action/thriller which I’m sure I will continue to come back to over and over again.

Highly recommended.