Nobody's Hero (1989)

Reviewed by: David Harris
Date: 07/05/2000

Review courtesy of Hong Kong Superstars (www.hksmag.co.uk)

"Nobody's Hero" is an obscure little heroic bloodshed film from the late 1980's that I have NEVER ever seen in my many trawls around London's Chinatown on any format and only have on video thanks to the late lamented Eastern Heroes shop on Shaftesbury Avenue (and their range of TVB UK tapes). The cast is largely as anonymous today as they were then (1989) although the leading man Liu Wai Hung (Ah Gun) appeared briefly in Sammo Hung's "Don't Give A Damn" if my memory serves me right and playing the blind girl who Ah Gun is trying to rescue from the drug dealing gangsters is a very young Kathy Chau ("Beast Cops").

The relative obscurity of the cast and the films very modest performance at the box office probably explains the apparent lack of availability but it deserves a wider audience because it really has something special about it and is more idiosyncratic in style and content than most films of that or any other era. It's a quirky little tale that while having an unremarkable premise goes from intro to postscript in a unusual manner courtesy of a remarkable leading performance, a matter-of-fact directorial style and a score that encapsulates the film's barely concealed melancholic undercurrent . If those that have the rights to this movie (if indeed anyone does) are listening - I would love to see this movie on DVD with some nifty extras!

The film kicks off with some panoramic shots of Hong Kong accompanied by an oddly discordant theme. We are introduced to Ah Gun as he drives his taxi around the wild streets of Hong Kong late at night picking up fares somewhat reluctantly - the first passengers we see are three loud drunken businessmen. His taxi has just pulled up at a set of traffic lights when he witnesses a robbery and leaps out of his vehicle to give chase eventually trapping the villain in a toilet cubicle. A struggle ensues during which a policeman arrives on the scene but when the cubicle door bursts open it is Ah Gun who has the bag in his hands and the robber seizes this opportunity to blame the crime on him and make good his escape while the policeman has his weapon trained on the unfortunate Samaritan. This sums up his initial character very neatly - he is someone who has good intentions but things never work out for him (your perception of him changes through the course of the film and someone you think of as being a bit of a harmless geek you end up seeing as foolhardy and ultimately dangerous to himself and others - Liu Wai Hung's performance is truly remarkable).

He wants to become a policeman but fails the entry exam due to his colour blindness so he becomes the next best thing - a security guard in a shopping mall. The mall is something of a hangout for the local gangsters and it is during a gang fight in the pool room that he saves in his spectacularly clumsy fashion a blind girl called Jane (Kathy Chau) from harm. Some gangsters who are using a shop in the mall as a front for drug dealing also happen to be using Jane as a courier (her uncle is one of the gangsters). His then girlfriend Monica leaves him to move to Japan and marry another man which in many ways is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning depending on your point of view for Ah Gun.

While making a ham-fisted attempt at DIY at the mall he witnesses a drug deal gone bad and tries to get to Jane and make a run for it but they catch up with him and dish out the inevitable beating but he doesn't give up and follows her and makes a run for a bus that she is on - he makes it but is spotted and the gangsters follow in their car. He grabs Jane's cocaine filled satchel and proceeds to rip open the bags and throw the contents out of the rear window of the bus. Her uncle catches up and boards the bus but they make their escape through the emergency window at the back of the bus and narrowly get on a train and make their way to a hospital (Jane falls down a flight of stairs as they are escaping and damages one of her legs). The doctors tell him that with an operation she can see again and upon hearing this he hatches a dangerous plot to get the money.....

He aims to intercept the money end of a drug deal but true to form ends up beating someone to death with a baseball bat who doesn't have the money. He gives chase to Jane's uncle but he - the uncle - runs into the gang's head who dispatches him in brutal fashion in direct view of the mall's car park security cameras. Ah Gun retrieves the videotape but is followed by the boss who kidnaps Jane and his best friend in an effort to get him to give him the tape which he has mailed to the police.

He agrees to do this but not before his friend has had an airhole put in his head with an electric drill. Two gangsters are sent to accompany him but the post box has already been emptied and they then go to a nightclub where Ah Gun says he mailed the tape but his two "minders" are suspicious and burst into the toilet after Ah Gun has received a pistol. They beat him but he retrieves the pistol and shoots them both dead after which he visits the mall to so far as the other gangsters who are waiting there are concerned deliver the tape but with his and one of the dead men's guns he goes berserk and shoots everyone insight before pursuing the boss out onto the deserted night street and shooting him in the head. The final 20 minutes or so is very intense brutal stuff and is filmed in an uncomplicated manner that doesn't glossily present the events in order to soften the impact.

The postscript sees Ah Gun being taken away to jail with Jane following the police van vowing to wait for him until he is freed. This film deserves it's own little corner of Hong Kong movie history just for being different and should you happen to see this poor little neglected film on sale anywhere give it a good home and some much needed TLC!