I won't go into a massive rehash of the plot b/c the film does suffer a bit from some of the hallmarks of Hong Kong cinema: there's far too much story to be told in two hours, but, somehow, it all manages to fit together. There are a few plot points (Sword Hua's search for his sister, Hero's love-hate relationship with the Elements, Shadow's real intentions, etc.) that don't get enough screen time -- surprisingly -- but sacrifices were made, and what's left for the story is more than enough to chew.
This film is dazzling to watch, and I think it so for a variety of reasons. It takes the traditional martial arts formula of the mystical hero, and it turns the film upside down to avoid going overboard in every way possible. Also, it strives to be much more of a contemporary 'period piece' -- set in what one could guess is America, circa 1920/1930 (I honestly don't remember that a date was mentioned) ... a creative choice that does give the principal characters far more of a 'superhero' feel and less of battling martial artists. That and EVERYTHING THAT COULD POSSIBLY BE WRITTEN ABOUT THE FILM'S CLIMAX ON THE STATUE OF LIBERTY MUST BE BELIEVED! While there are a few parts of the Statue's final battle that are hard to swallow, it's easy to look the other way and just be dazzled in the way many other blockbuster films have tried to do.
A MAN CALLED HERO (not to be confused with Jet Li's HERO) is a remarkable find, and it's a remarkable piece of work from a man called Andrew Lau.
This is a definite owner. While parts of it are more guilty pleasure than anything else, A MAN CALLED HERO is wonderfully entertaining and even manages to tug on a few heartstrings along the way.
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