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俠骨仁心 (2000)
Healing Hearts

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 05/29/2010
Summary: Not what the doctor ordered

The global reach of American popular culture and the flood of mediocrity that comes in its wake has never been more obvious than with “Healing Hearts” which is not only a poor movie it isn’t even a good TV show. Over the years Hong Kong filmmakers have shown they are fully capable of producing dreck on their own so mining U.S. television is hardly necessary. In “Healing Hearts” we see the worst of both worlds.

Some of the tropes of U.S. doctor shows from the late 1980s are present in all their tediousness. In the aftermath of a poorly conceived and executed bank robbery that results in mass casualties ambulances and private cars arrive at the emergency room door. Triage is performed in the alley, on the pavement by doctors who happen to be in the area including Tony Leung and Kenny Bee. Patients on wheeled stretchers are pushed or attended by as many emergency people who are able to get close enough to get a hand in, there are at least 10 medical professionals for each injured person and there is generally a lot of rushing and shouting.

There is the technical medical jargon, a beloved and necessary part of doctor shows, with physicians barking orders about how many of this and how much of that to use while nurses respond terse but impressive sounding reports of the patient’s condition: “Rate 50, level 99, output steady, wheat falling on the Omaha market”--oops that last one must have been from another show. A doctor gets to show his impeccable ethics when he is approached by a police officer and told that one of the injured is the suspect. Cutting the officer off before he could say anything that might be useful: "He is that guy over there" or "He is still armed" or "His gang is on the way to free him" the doctor says the expected, that his duty is to treat every patient and to do everything he can to help them.

What might be called subplots, if there was a discernible for them to be subordinate to, occur and are either solved by improbable but contextually unsurprising interventions or abandoned. In one case Dr. Tony Leung is berated by a nurse for telling a patient that she has brain cancer and will die within two years. The patient is suicidal and may be wandering around the hospital. Dr. Tony and the nurse find the patient sitting on a ledge--they haven't alerted security social services, hospital security or the police--and he walks up to her on the ledge and brings her back. Others that weren't resolved before the credits rolled, such as the attractive doctor being courted by a gangster, may have been left for future episodes.

Nothing new or interesting so far.

A bit earlier during the bank robbery that caused all the casualties Kenny Bee showed that he is exactly the type of person who should not be allowed anywhere near an emergency room--or a hospital or any place else people gather in public. The robber burst just as the bank was closing, pulled a gun and screamed at the customers to get on the floor. He looked deranged and dangerous, operating on a very short fuse. Dr. Kenny decided to take charge, first telling the robber to put his gun away, then telling him not to rob the bank (a bit late for that) since an employee would push an alarm summoning the police. Goaded to his breaking point the robber gave up on that crime and decided instead to go for mass incineration. When he threw a liquid all over Kenny Bee yelled "Be careful, that paint thinner is dangerous," and when he lit his lighter exclaimed "Hey buddy, don't start a fire". While the bank robbery/immolation scene was necessary to set up the mass casualty situation at the hospital Kenny Bee's part in it only showed him to be an officious, meddling jerk who spoke (or shouted) before he thought.

This happens in the first ten minutes or so of "Healing Hearts". It doesn't get any better as it unfolds. The only remarkable aspect of "Healing Hearts" is that Michelle Reis joined Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill" and Leonor Watling in "Talk to Her" as women whose ineffable beauty increased during the time they lay comatose.

I picked this up by mistake while browsing in one of the few video sales/rental stores in the area with a decent inventory of Hong Kong films. Misreading the blurb on the back I thought that Tony Leung was a cop with a girlfriend in coma and blah, blah blah...

Reviewer Score: 1

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 12/05/2004
Summary: DOA

What a mess! The subplots are stuck into the story at regular intervals with the same affect as having your attention diverted by commercials during a TV show, since they are totally unrelated to the main action and never go anywhere. Since this is apparently a model for a TV show, maybe that was the idea: every place in the movie where the subplot is shown will be replaced by ads when it's converted to television.

Both the previous reviewers were spot on regarding Michelle Reis's performance, but I disagree about Tony Leung's. He's one of my favorite actors but he looks like he's sleep walking through this one. I know he was given nothing to work with, but he doesn't rise above it in any way. I'm sure Michelle and Tony's agents are busy deleting this from their clients' official filmographies. Avoid it or you, too, will be induced into a deep coma..

Reviewed by: Sasami
Date: 01/06/2001
Summary: Almost a complete waste of time!

As a lure for its upcoming TV series, this is an interesting vehicle that almost works. Unfortunately, we are introduced to so many characters and sub-plots that trying to keep up with many of them is a hopeless task. In the end, this felt more like a 2 hour long commercial than a movie. Tony Leung's character is engaging enough, and he proves once again what a great actor he is. Unfortunately, Michelle Reis as the female lead, was not nearly as convincing. Her acting was sometimes wooden and contrived... and no one just coming out of a coma can look that perfectly made up! If you have seen the original TVB series from about 2 years ago, you will definitely see the mimicked storylines and characters. All in all, wait until the new TV series comes out and don't waste your time on the movie!

Reviewed by: Paul Fonoroff
Date: 10/28/2000

It would take more than a trip to the celluloid ER to fix what’s wrong with Healing Hearts. Ostensibly inspired by ER and Chicago Hope style hospital dramas, this is the first Hong Kong theatrical release shot simultaneously with, and as a pilot to, a soon-to-be-aired television series. Directed and written by television veteran Gary Tang, no stranger to small-screen hospital series, Healing Hearts is a feature-length TV show and a middling one at that.

The medical and personal crises facing Dr. Lawrence (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) are predictable, maudlin, and emotionally sham. Tony Leung proves that he is an alchemist, for he delivers a first rate performance that, although failing to transform the dreck into gelt, provides Healing Hearts with its most watchable moments.

The script gives Lawrence an entire TV season worth of melodrama. He not only must cure his patients, but also come to terms with the senseless hit-and-run death of his beloved wife. A few rays of sunshine are provided by the miraculous awakening of Jackie (Michelle Reis), a comatose beauty who is the girlfriend of Lawrence’s colleague Dr. Paul (Kenny Bee). Jackie and Paul have an amiable parting, and the unemployed young lady moves in with Lawrence—on a strictly platonic basis that predictably blossoms into True Love. She is one of those free spirits whose perkiness makes the world a better place, or so the script would have us believe. Reis, who we know is capable of delivering an excellent performance when in good directorial hands, is decorative and energetic but forced and artificial.

How could she be anything but when confronted with virtually every cliche in the annals of hospital movies? The viewer easily foresees she will eventually be afflicted with a debilitating illness that nonetheless will leave her beauty intact. Bette Davis could get away with it in Dark Victory, but even Bette would be stumped by the staleness and triteness of Healing Hearts. The overly manipulative music that overemphasizes every pluck of the heartstrings only reinforces the ersatz emotions.

As if one mediocre plot line wasn’t enough, there are a couple of subplots, poorly realized, in which Lawrence searches for the hit-and-run driver, along with a resentful cop who blames the good doctor for his brother’s death. Another subplot features a pretty lawyer (Valerie Chow) who is wooed by a hunky triad member (Jackie Lui) while taking on a medical malpractice suit. In between, there’s still time for Lawrence to talk a suicidal patient out of jumping from the roof while Paul saves customers and staff during a botched bank robbery in which the building is torched.

Though that’s a lot to pack into 112 minutes, Healing Hearts is more tedious than an emergency room waiting line. Patrons might be tempted to shout, "Director, heal thyself."

2 stars

This review is copyright (c) 2000 by Paul Fonoroff. All rights reserved. No part of the review may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Reviewer Score: 4