Well Go USA // 1989 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // May 2nd, 2014
Stand and fight.
In 1954, Akira Kurosawa released one of his many masterpieces, Seven Samurai, to international acclaim. It became such an important movie that, six years later, it would be remade by Hollywood as The Magnificent Seven, a classic in its own right. Fast forward three decades and it was remade once again, this time in Hong Kong style, as Seven Warriors. This time, it's not so much a classic as the other two, not really by a long shot, but it's a worthy movie that, in ways, is more purely entertaining than either of its predecessors.
The 1920s in China was known as the "Warlord Era," a time when thieves, bandits, and rogues ruled the land. In the tiny farming village of Guangxi, bandits have taken over, stealing all the profits and bullying or killing anyone who gets in their way. Fed up, the townspeople hire seven known warriors to come in and beat back the villains, who then organize and get ready for the final battle to come.
Seven Warriors tells this tale in a far less satisfying or interesting fashion than either of its predecessors, but it's still a highly entertaining piece of work. And that's okay; entertaining is good. It's just a far step down and if you're looking for a classic, you won't find it here. What you will find is an action-heavy combination of sword wielding and gunplay that moves quickly and is plenty of fun.
Director and star Sammo Hung (Shanghai Express) tends to focus on comedy more than the drama of the situation and places romance where it really doesn't need to be, but it definitely makes for a different viewing experience, one that's much closer in tone to the Shaw Brothers than it is to Kurosawa. It never devolves into silliness, but the insistence of little gags does lower the stakes dramatically.
The action is well-done though. The opening scene is the best, which sets us up with the situation and delivers a plot point that will reemerge later, but mostly it's a fantastic action set piece full of atmosphere and fast-paced kills that sets a mood which, unfortunately, it cannot maintain. As the plot picks up from there, it moves far more slowly as we get the sense of the bandit menace, the hiring of the warriors, and getting to know them. This takes up the bulk of the movie, and while some of the gags work, Hung's insistence on getting to know the town and its citizens gets a little tiresome after a while.
Still, when the action does come, it's pretty fun and the final battle is well staged. It's never particularly violent, but its combination of firearms, martial weapons, and hand-to-hand contact makes it a nicely exciting time. The performances are nothing to write home about necessarily, but the cinematography looks good and, while the musical score is kind of all over the place, I really found it strange and fun, though not always appropriate. So, sure, it doesn't come anywhere near the two movies which came before, but it's still solid martial arts action that should satisfy fans of the genre, if not fans of Seven Samurai.
Well Go USA doesn't always have the best track record when it comes to their Asian cinema releases, but they do pretty well with their Blu-ray for Seven Warriors. It sports a nice-looking 1.78:1/1080p transfer that has surprisingly bright and full colors. Flesh tones look good and, while the black levels aren't nearly as deep as they could be, they're better than most releases of Hong Kong movies I've seen. There is a bit of softness and a heavy grain structure that keeps fine detail from coming through, but it's quite strong overall. The sound isn't quite as good, but it still works fine. There's the original Dolby stereo mix and remastered Master Audio surround mix and, while the original is clean and decent, the remastered track sounds much fuller, with a much stronger presentation of the schizophrenic musical score. Dialog is always clear and there's no background noise to contend with. No extras, but the technical aspects of the disc are strong enough to recommend.
For hardcore devotees of Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven, Seven Warriors might seem like a pointless and silly affair. I love both of those earlier movies, but I can also separate that love to enjoy something else. This stuff isn't sacrosanct; it's just a story, albeit a great one, so I'm happy to see it interpreted for another culture, just as we did for our version. Seven Warriors isn't a great movie and it trades a little too heavily on comedy without enough fighting, but it's very enjoyable and, especially for Hong Kong movie fans, this is a treat.
Review content copyright © 2014 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go USA
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Cantonese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Cantonese)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated