The Heroic Ones Film Details
Overview: The “iron triangle” of director Chang Cheh and protégés David Chiang and Ti Lung make The Heroic Ones a quintessential action epic, set during the waning years of the Tang Dynasty and centering on a royal family rife with intrigue.
Review: A Feudal lord and his 13 sons wage war against rebel invaders and enemy opposition. The two most decorated sons cause jealousy and greed amongst some of the other brothers culminating in a bloody and violent clash pitting brother against brother in one of the most famous Chinese action films ever. Chang Cheh directs this first film in his ‘cast of thousands’ series of films. Comparable to Shakespearean tragedy, the film features many elements inherent in the Bards works. Cheh was known for his masculine style of movie-making which he became famous for as well as stirring up controversy about the homo-erotic undercurrents in all his films, some more subtle than others. Here, Award winning actor Ku Feng (HAVE SWORD WILL TRAVEL, VENGEANCE!) loves all his sons but pays special attentions to Chun Hsiao (Chiang) and Chun Hsu (Ti Lung). Both are the strongest and most skilled of the 13 brothers but two of the other brothers are not happy about the accolades awarded them. One scene in particular has seven of the thirteen infiltrate an enemy encampment and attempt an assassination on a rebel leader in an effort to force their soldiers out of the area. Chun Hsiao has the plan laid out but the two jealous siblings decide to employ their own plan resulting in a massive attack with the seven brothers fighting against hundreds upon hundreds of men. Without doubt the best scene in the whole movie is when the king (Ku Feng) is invited to a dinner with one of the Ambassadors (Chen Sing, who is secretly in cahoots with the enemy), they get him, Chun Hsu and all their men drunk and attempt to kill them all while they sleep. The plan nearly works and Chu Wan (Chen Sing) has his fortress set aflame(!) to make sure none of them escape. Not to mention employing special assassins under the “Bridge of Peace” to kill them should they make it that far. One of the most suspenseful, bloody and exciting martial arts sequences ever filmed. The scene that led to the above described bit is also good. At the opening, an enemy general (Bolo Yeung) is slaughtering the kings men so the Ambassador demands something be done. All of his sons are assembled as the king proclaims any of his 13 can bring in the general alone. Chun Hsiao is selected by the Ambassador even though he is drunk and asleep. Chu Wan, the Ambassador, bets his royal belt from the Emperor that Chun cannot bring in the marauding General by noon. Chun bets his head in return. Anyway, Chun easily defeats the general and drags him by his neck on a rope with one arm(!) into the Palace ballroom for all to see. Everyone laughs as Chu Wan must now hand over his royal belt. He refuses so Chun cuts the belt in half telling the Ambassador, “I’ve left you half…be satisfied!” This is an unforgivable embarrassment for Chu and sets in motion his vendetta against the kings youngest and strongest son. David Chiang is superb as the tough and highly skilled Chun Hsiao, the youngest of the kings 13 sons. His performance would mirror others Chiang would undertake in later Cheh martial chivalry movies. With his slight and slender build, Chiang is always shown as an extremely strong and powerful adversary taking on fighters much bigger than he. Here, he uses a very large and thick double spear. It takes two men to carry it but Chiang wields it like it was a feather. Although Chiang studied martial arts, he seldom looked believable in kung fu roles but was perfectly suited to swordplay movies. Some kung fu pictures where he does look good are SHAOLIN MANTIS, LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES and the non-Shaw, THE LOOT. Ti Lung also impresses as the equally strong Chun Hsu. The aforementioned scene where he tries to get his father out of the burning castle alive amidst thousands of soldiers is one of the most thrilling action scenes period regardless of genre. This extended scene goes on for nearly 15 minutes. Ti Lung studied Wing Chun kung fu, a style Bruce Lee practiced. Ti was the more masculine of the mega popular Chiang-Lung double act. The movies these two did with Chang Cheh caused the trio to be known as ‘The Iron Triangle’. The action scenes are stupendous and for the time, were considered extremely accomplished. Seeing them now, they’re slower than the films from the late 70s on, but they possess a realism lacking in the more choreographed films that (supposed) hard-core fans seem to prefer. The only mis-step in the film occurs at the finale. In an effort to not reveal too much, it involves some of the other brothers who we get to know very little about over the course of the films 120 minute running time. A highly recommended actioner with much emotion and great performances by all.
Country: Hong Kong
Duration: 117 min
Genre: Action, Drama, History, War
Also known as: Iroika adelfia tou kung fu,Shi san tai bao,Les 13 fils du dragon d’or,Oi gioi tou aftokratora,英雄十三傑,Thirteen Princes,The Heroic Ones,De 13 zonen van de gele draak,Kolmetoista sotaherraa,I tredici figli del Drago Verde,Sangue de Heróis,Los héroes,Sap sam tai bo,Los 13 hijos del dragón de oro,Divided We Fall,Bohaterowie,Die 13 Söhne des gelben Drachen