Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Seven Warriors: Sammo Hung Puts Them Through Their Paces

Seven is an auspicious number. There are the Wonders of the World and Deadly Sins. It also only takes seven hardnosed mercenaries to rally a small village’s defenses. The template created by Akira Kurosawa and burnished by John Sturges’ classic western is transplanted to Republican China in Terry Tong’s Seven Warriors (trailer here), notably co-directed by Sammo Hung, which releases today on DVD from Well Go USA.

Right, you know how this goes. The women of a provincial village regularly plundered by outlaws shame their men into recruiting some hired guns. They find seven volunteers: Commander Chi, five of his former comrades-in-arms, and the over-eager country bumpkin Wong Way-wu. It quickly gets personal when Chi discovers an old colleague happens to be the chief warlord in question. The stakes also increase for Wong when he secretly shelters the sister of Hung Sap Kan, the leader of an aborted rebellion in a nearby village, who meets a premature end during the prologue.

Viewers should have a pretty clear idea what they are dealing with from the old school foley effects and heroic synthesizer music. Compared to its two notable predecessors, Warriors is definitely the lesser of the Trio of Seven, but it still delivers plenty of high spirited period action. Also serving as action choreographer, Master Hung stages some nifty fight scenes. The overall body count is also rather impressive. Yet, what might standout most are the frequency and severity of mistakes made by the home team. You certainly cannot accuse them of comic book invincibility.

Master Hung also shows his moves that defy the laws of physics during his cameo smackdown as his namesake. It is also rather amusing to see a young “Little” Tony Leung Chiu Wai (now so familiar to us as the mature smoothie) as the rustic Wong. Both he and Wu Ma (best known for supernatural fare, like A Chinese Ghost Story) overdo the comic relief, but there will be plenty of tragedy to offset it.

There are some surprisingly striking visuals in Warriors, as well as some genuinely earnest performances. Hung keeps the action gritty and grounded and Tong maintains a respectable pace. Altogether, it works pretty well, especially for those for whom it will appeal to a sense of nostalgia. Recommended for genre fans, Seven Warriors is now available on DVD and BluRay from Well Go USA.