Heroes Shed No Tears (1986)

Viewed March 28th


A virtually indestructible Chinese army man guns down hundreds of bad guys while protecting his wife and little boy.

You can imagine someone saying, pejoratively, that Heroes Shed No Tears is no more than a video game. After all, it's plot consists of one high-body count combat action sequence after another, with little to no character or narrative interest beyond that. But, in fact, this film, a relatively early John Woo Hong Kong action-fest, is decidedly not a video game (and this is not to say that being compared to video games is necessarily a negative thing). In fact, Heroes Shed No Tears is one of the more purely cinematic films I've seen in some time. A video game immerses its players in its world through a sort of interactive/cybernetic feedback in which to play the game as strongly as possible, one has to become as deeply absorbed in the reality of the game world as possible. A film is totally different. There is no interactivity, the way (or at least a way) a film immerses the viewer in its worlds is through aesthetics--hooking in the viewer through imagery moving across the screen juxtaposed with other moving imagery, all set to a temporal rhythm. It's an art form for submissives. This is not to say that Heroes Shed No Tears is a masterpiece film. One other aspect of cinematic absorption is plotting and character in order to more deeply sustain and deepen the absorption in the world. Woo will reach much more operatic heights with these aspects of film practice in his later films, most notably The Killer.