Great stories exploring the class of cultures generally mean the same thing to people of different nations, creeds, and faiths. There’s something uniquely identifiable that we – as a basic human species – can see and appreciate in these tales, and no passage of time will ever dilute the strength of the moral about what happens when people face ruthless oppression. Also – as history is ripe with examples – these narratives tend to pass down with each subsequent generation; while the use of the moral may get altered by our children and our grandchildren, the central conceit – that at some time you will have to rise up and throw off your own chains – remains as powerful then as it is today and, no doubt, will be centuries down the line.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “The Warlord Era: where desperate soldiers have become thieves and bandits, leaving towns – and lives – in ruins. The villagers of Guangxi rise up, hiring seven warriors to take up arms against the marauders and save their home.”
If you’ve seen Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI, then you’re already familiar with this story. Also, if you’ve seen THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, then you’re equally familiar with it. That isn’t to say that yet one more remake of that legendary first take of this tale by Kurosawa is unnecessary; instead I’d point out that the story of villagers who eventually have to learn to fight for themselves has a theme many storytellers find universal. Great stories adapt very well across different cultures, and Terry Tong (aka Sammo Hung, who appears briefly in the film’s opening sequence) has done a terrific job bringing this version to cinematic life.
And because it was part and parcel of the Hong Kong New Wave in Film perhaps SEVEN WARRIORS is definitely worth a look. I think it rather exceptionally combines a healthy amount of traditional film elements that Chinese filmmakers had already explored but it did so with a new, hyperkinetic, fully realized look that heralded how much times were changin’ for that great nation.
SEVEN WARRIORS (1989) is produced by Maverick Films. DVD distribution is being handled by the ever-reliable Well Go USA Entertainment. (Seriously, their import catalogue is to die for.) For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Cantonese spoken language release with English subtitles available. (There is no English-dubbed track.) As for the technical specifications? The sights and sounds come fast and furious in the latter half of the flick, along with some impressive cinematography that signaled a whole new era in Hong Kong filmmaking. Lastly – if it’s special features you want – then prepare for the disappointment as there isn’t a single one there: a big miss, but what are you gonna do?
RECOMMENDED. Sure, it’s a bit dated as today’s standards go, but so very much of Terry Tong’s SEVEN WARRIORS follows every thematic beat of Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI that it remains a remake worth a view. Some of the humor may seem more than a bit out-of-place, but culturally much of it harkens back to a time when going to the movies was all about having a great time; on that score, the flick delivers.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of SEVEN WARRIORS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.