I am about to start posting a series of blogs about My Father is a Hero (Hong Kong, 1995). A plot synopsis can be found here: http://www.fandango.com/myfatherisahero_v163135/plotsummary
And a full cast and crew list can be found here: http://www.hkmdb.com/db/movies/view.mhtml?id=7971&display_set=eng
In this blog I have jotted down a few random thoughts about this interesting film:
Random Thought 1:
I was startled to realise that none other than Wong Jing produced and wrote the story for My Father is a Hero. Who’d have thunk! This is the same Wong Jing who has made his reputation in cramming the movies he directs full of scatology, puerile sleaze and general vulgarity. And yet, My Father has none of these elements and is a serious and somewhat dark film. Apparently Wong has hidden depths.
Random Thought 2:
Corey Yuen Kuei directed this film and pops up in a cameo as a bartender. Alongside Yuen Tak he also directed the action and choreographed the fights. I think that Corey Yuen and Yuen Tak may be among Jet Li’s most frequent collaborators. Corey Yuen has worked in about 14 or 15 films with Jet Li, mostly as a choreographer.
Random Thought 3:
Part of this film is set in the Beijing of the 1990s. The sets and clothing look very realistic, and this is an aesthetic that you don’t often see. Most martial arts films are set in the past. Those set in contemporary times usually feature an urban glitzy Hong Kong as their background and have quite a different look to the Beijing we see in My Father. The contrast between the sets and costumes in the Beijing scenes and the Hong Kong scenes is effective and helps to convey the disorientation that both Kung Wei (played by Jet Li) and Siu Ku (played by Xie Mao) face when they go to Hong Kong. And the culture shock goes back the other way too: when Hong Kong sophisticate, Inspector Fong (played by Anita Mui), visits Kung’s wife and son in Beijing she is nauseated when she sees Kung’s wife eating soup made from ants.
Random Thought 4:
In one scene we see Kung buying a pendant featuring his Chinese astrological sign of the rabbit. In another scene Kung’s wife asks Inspector Fong if she was born in the year of the rabbit and Fong answers yes. In real life both Jet Li and Anita Mui really were born in the year of the rabbit. If I can pick up on this kind of trivia I must really be turning into a geek mustn’t I?
Random Thought 5:
Kung has a pager in this film, and Jet Li’s character in Bodyguard from Beijing (also directed by Corey Yuen) also had a pager. In both these films the beeping pager makes its presence felt. There is a brief moment of humour injected into My Father during the scene where the main villain, Po (played by Yu Rong Guang), is briefing his henchmen and we hear a pager go off. Everyone automatically checks their pager to see if it is a message for them, much to the irritation of Po. This makes me wonder if Hong Kong in the 1990s was infested with beeping pagers (to the apparent irritation of Corey Yuen).
Random Thought 6:
A parallel that can be drawn between the 2 adult main characters in this film, the cops Kung and Fong, is that they are both, in a sense, betrayed or hung out to dry by their superiors. Kung expresses to his superior a reluctance to do anymore cover work (his wife is seriously ill and his family needs him). This superior brushes aside his concerns and dispatches him to go deep undercover. This assignment cuts Kung completely off from his family and causes them great emotional and financial distress. Kung’s poor wife succumbs to her illness and dies, believing that Kung is a good father and husband but also, to the last, totally buying Kung’s cover as a criminal bound for gaol. By acceding to his superior’s commands, Kung is denied a chance to support his family or even to say goodbye to his wife. Fong goes to great trouble and unwittingly exposes herself and Ku to danger in order to smuggle Ku, now unsupported by any adult following his mother’s death and father’s disappearance, into Hong Kong. Her superior (also her married lover) allows Ku’s photograph and details to be published in the media as a ploy to flush out the mysterious Kung as he believes that collaring Kung will be a boost for his career. Fong is disgusted as his actions, taken without any consultation with her, threaten to undermine her handling of the case and, more importantly, jeopardise the safety of herself, Ku and Kung.
Random Thought 7:
During the latter stages of the film we see Fong dump her smarmy lover (with some classy dialogue). Through spending time with Kung’s wife and child, and witnessing the strong ties and emotional integrity that bonds this little family together, perhaps Fong has learnt more about selfless love as opposed to manipulative co-dependency. Interacting with Ku and his mother brings out the best in Fong and we see a softer and more generous side to this tough copper.
Random Thought 8:
Preceding the final climactic action set piece are some scenes showing Kung infiltrating an auction taking place on a boat. He is observed on security cameras by Ku, who is hiding on another boat. Ku is using the information provided by the visuals on the cameras to help his father, and relays the information to him by using a mobile phone to send messages to Kung’s pager. Because Ku is not talking directly to his dad, but is instead leaving messages with the pager service (I always wonder what the call centre staff on that particular shift must have ended up thinking), the effect is of Ku talking about his dad in the 3rd person and, in essence, providing the audience with a narrative to accompany Jet Li’s physical performance. It’s an interesting technique to watch.
Random Thought 9:
The opening credits are intercut with footage showing a vast squad of kiddies performing an impressive wu shu routine in formation. These prodigious poppets kick the ass of The Matrix’s cast, I reckon. This always reminds me of the background of Jet Li, the adult star of this film. He started to study martial arts from the age of 8, and from 10 and then throughout his teens, he studied wu shu full time in one of China’s top sports academies and was hailed a prodigy. You can find photos on the internet and even footage on youtube showing little Jet performing in wu shu competitions and demonstrations just like the one that opens this film.
I have done a lot of writing about this film and have come up with 3 blogs addressing the following aspects:
- The power of promises as a theme in the movie
- How My Father is a Hero fits the melodramatic form
- The choreography
I love it when people read my blogs and hope that someone out there finds these blogs interesting.