千言萬語 (1999)
Ordinary Heroes

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 11/16/2002

A drama which tries to be a little different, but unfortunately, probably due to the fact Ann Hui is behind this, it ends up looking like another attempted hit at international viewers. The end result of which is a mess.

The story is reasonably interesting, but far too long for its content. As for the acting…it’s bad. Over dramatisation is one way to describe each actor in this (with the exaction of Anthony Wong), and too much crying for a film like this. I’m not putting down dramas, because these are the kinds of films I like the best from HK over the last 5 or so years out of all other genres, but there are great dramas, and then there are ridiculously poor ones trying to cash in on the success of other such films like In The Mood For Love, Ashes Of Time, etc etc. Ordinary Heroes is in the later category!

Definitely not a film worth watching.


Reviewed by: David Harris
Date: 06/09/2000

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

I have to say straight away that this film is about as far removed from the average Hong Kong production of today as it is possible to get. No guns , no girls & no gang wars would make a great tag line for this film (actually I lie as it is a film that is impossible to condense into a marketing slogan).

It isn't a "commercial" product yet the Producer / Director Ann Hui has been making films for at least 20 years (she directed both Chow Yun Fat's best regarded pre-A Better Tomorrow film "The Story of Woo Viet" and the relatively recent Sammo Hung / Michelle Yeoh film "Ah Kam") so her work obviously has considerable merit. It can be said that the stories (often reality based) she likes to tell aren't in the least bit "sexy" which would explain the modest box office results.

She likes to shine a light on subjects that are usually confined to news broadcasts or documentaries (and even then sometimes given short shrift). This is a film about everyday people or as the films title has it ordinary heroes.

It is a 2 hours plus film about political activism in Hong Kong in the 1980's and many of the events in the film are based on real incidents. There are a number of personal stories that unfold during the film but the core of the film involves the ongoing struggle for the rights of the wives of Hong Kong's boat families.

The point is made during the film that these people are descendants of Hong Kong's original residents yet get a raw deal when it comes to regular housing. Whether this is still the case all these years later is another matter and is a subject that can't be done justice by me.

The biggest name in the film is HKS's beloved honorary member Anthony Wong - he plays an Italian priest who teaches the youngsters English , plays the guitar & goes on hunger strike in order to drawn attention to their cause. It's a great straight dramatic performance and it mirrors the film in that it is low key and understated yet effective.

This film is a far from easy watch and is a film to be admired rather than enjoyed. The battle to try and reunite the boat families bears heavily on the members of those families and on the activists trying to help them and the film doesn't try to make light of the situation in any way so it naturally isn't a laugh riot but there is the very occasional humourous touch.

The single most potent image in the film is of a young child trapped in a wooden folding chair crying its eyes out - it is a startling image and is a neat summation of the situation that these people are enduring. Even if do go out and buy this film it isn't going to be one that you are going to watch regularly (it is too uncomfortable an experience for anyone other than a total masochist) but when you do watch it you'll appreciate your own life more and realise just how different Hong Kong reality can be from Hong Kong fantasy.

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 04/08/2000
Summary: I'd rather watch a documentar.

Quite an accomplishment by Ann Hui; how did she make a potentially interesting true story so boring? Frustrating, scattershot storytelling, for one. I'm sure a lot of thought went into this film, and there are probably a lot of interesting ideas buried in there somewhere. Unfortunately, I'm not inclined to dug deeper into a film that fails to engage me on any basic level. To make matters worse, the film breaks the two hour mark and has about four or five false endings. Unfortunately, its probable Best Picture win makes it a must see for any real HK cinema devotee.

Reviewed by: ryan
Date: 11/21/1999
Summary: Ordinary Heroes (1999)

In view of the poster of 'Ordinary Heroes', you will find it difficult to attract you as it looks like B&S's 'I Shoot Myself'. The main selling point of 'Ordinary Heroes' can be Rachael LEE Lai-chu and Anthony WONG Chau-sang, as well as Ann HUI, the director. The selection of 'Ordinary Heroes' as the opening movie for the current Hong Kong International Film Festival has given it as the main selling point.

The story of 'Ordinary Heroes' is extrated from the real experience of a group who strikes for others' interest by forms of demonstration. The word 'Ordinary' means that these group of people are ordinary, like you and me but they are heroes as we respect them. The plot presents the development ofthese pressure groups from late 70s to 90s from 'Boat Family' to 'Boat People's Wives' and then union strikes to 4th June incident. KAM (Anthony WONG), a father of a church is trying to help others while YAU Yue-foon (TSE Kwan-ho) also does the same thing but in another approach. Rachael LEE and LEE Kan-sang are representating the groups who are introduced in these pressure groups during the interim.

From the beginning of the caption of the movie, it is said that the movie is from the real experience of a guy in pressure group. This tells us that the focus of the movie is to let audience knowin how difficult the pressure groups in fighting for what they want. The approach Ann HUI has used is to present the main incidnets, which is almost the ony way of presentation.

By nature, the movie should be cool to present the scenes if the main incidents to the extent that audience can be impressed even though they are not born in that period. Ann HUI has put efforts in presenting it natural. For example, when describing the days in the subway during typhoon. You can see how these groups react for everything. However, the movie seems not impressive enough to let people from different ages understand the situations at that time. I consider if the plot can have more context on setimental feelings would make the whole movie more concrete and hence be easier to empathise audience

Concerning the topic of union strikes and pressure groups. Ann tried to write in several dimensions. The first dimension is the group by Anthony WONG Chau-sang who would follow his own style and rule for what he wants. In the movie, it seems that the group is hard but not very effective. The second dimension is by YAU (TSE Kwan-ho) who finnaly found the only way to fight is to join the constituition but finally being addicted to power and away from its origin.

In terms of peroformance, I consider Anthony WONG Chau-sang has done a good job. WONG in this film cast as a father from Italian. This character by nature limited the performance of Anthony WONG as he can't use the intonation to present his feelings. However, his facial expressions does supplement his verbal disability in the character.

In short, 'Ordinary Heroes' seems to have what exactly its Chinese Title -- Thousand Words. Thousands words for presentation. However, due to running short of the length, I consider the topic can be better than what we are having now.