After Call Of Heroes hit the screens, moviegoers were quick to dub it a politically-charged fusion of classic movie genres that pays tribute to the spaghetti westerns and samurai dramas of yesteryears.
Director Benny Chan, however, prefers to call his latest film “just a straightforward story of good versus evil”. Inspired by all the martial arts flicks that he used to watch while growing up, the Hong Kong filmmaker said: “The concept has its origins from a martial arts world, and springs from the underlying chivalrous spirit, which is the basic building block of the heroic characters in the movie.”
In the film, a righteous small-town sheriff Yeung Hak-nan (Sean Lau) seeks to convict a trigger-happy warlord’s son Tso Siu-lun (Louis Koo) for gunning down three innocent people. Wandering swordsman Ma Fung (Eddie Peng) is roped in to provide support when the majority of the villagers would rather release the killer for fear of offending his despotic father.
Chan, who got the idea for Call Of Heroes after his last movie The White Storm (2013), continued: “The story is a simple face-off between good and evil. In our movie, there is a saying that justice needs to be upheld for it to exist. So, these two heroes are the upholders of justice in the movie.
“As a filmmaker, I always want to reinforce good values. I feel that film is a excellent purveyor of that message,” stressed Chan, 54, who was accompanied by actors Sean Lau, 52, and Eddie Peng, 34, when he was in town recently to promote his latest movie Call Of Heroes.
Since his sheriff character is quite the kung fu expert, Lau had to learn how to wield the weapon of his choice – a bullwhip. “I had a whip with me in the hotel room, so I could practise whenever I found the time. The thing about a whip is if you don’t wield it correctly, you will end up hitting yourself with it. So, I would pick up the whip every morning, to familiarise myself with it so that cracking the whip became more natural.”
Taking on a role deemed a major departure from his dashing heart-throb image, Peng had to style himself into a messy and rugged vagrant character modelled after Toshio Mifune’s free-spirited hero in Akira Kurosawa classics Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962).
“I knew it would be messy, but didn’t expect it to be so dirty. I wanted an outback sort of look so I grew a long beard and chewed on blades of grass.
“Here we have the bad guy in white and the good guys in dark clothes, looking all grimy and messy. I’m the dirtiest of the lot. The director arranged it so that the most clean-cut, neatly-groomed, good-looking one was the most evil of them all.
“I had to spend time learning to communicate with children and animals, since many of my scenes were with kids, a horse, and a dog. I spent a lot of time talking to the horses because I had horseback riding sequences and and also one of me blind-folded and galloping off into the woods. They tried their best to get me the same horse so it would be easier to breed familiarity,” said Peng.
As it was the first time he was working with veteran martial arts star Sammo Hung as action director, Chan tried his best to fulfil Hung’s every requirement. “There is a major fight scene with lots of wire work, with multiple explosions and secret trapdoors on a bridge. The challenge was erecting a floating platform on the water to extend the wires from the cranes. That required so much manpower as we had more than 100 stunt crew members operating the wires,” shared Chan.