Oh, HEROES OF THE EAST. I had high expectations for you, and you still managed to exceed them. That is a rare feat.
I've known about HEROES OF THE EAST (aka SHAOLIN CHALLENGES NINJA) for a long time. I even tried to purchase it once before. However, while the DVD case on that item was very clearly SHAOLIN CHALLENGES NINJA, the disc itself was actually SHAOLIN VS. NINJA. Now, you would think would be the same movie. I am here to tell you, it is not. Not by a longshot.
Not long ago, I picked up the Dragon Dynasty DVD of the film. It is gorgeous and loaded with extras. To give you an idea, I still haven't found the time to finish watching the English dub track that is included. Between the excellent Mandarin track, the insightful commentary track by Bey Logan, and the abundance of bonuses, it just has fallen by the wayside. I am sure it will be chock-full of "But still" dubbing goodness.
The plot involves a Chinese man (Gordon Liu) marrying a Japanese woman, and the culture clash between the two lovers. This leads to misunderstandings that culminate in a challenge by eight Japanese fighters to our intrepid protagonist. And since the Japanese contingent counts Yasuaki Kurata in its number, you just know that's going to be good.
HEROES OF THE EAST is an action-packed martial arts movie that also manages to be thoughtful in its treatment of the characters. Unusually for Chinese martial arts epics, the Japanese are not treated as evil. They are the "villains", for lack of a better term, but they aren't really villainous at all. They are adversaries that are to be respected, but they never do anything particularly awful. It's a respectful and interesting tactic, though it probably has a lot more impact if you are familiar with the traditional portrayals of this rivalry.
HEROES OF THE EAST is one of the most enjoyable martial arts movie I've ever watched. I give it my highest possible recommendation!
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