Although it might sound like the prequel to HEROIC TRIO, the similarly named and more recent HEROIC DUO has nothing to do with superheroes. Likewise made in Hong Kong, it houses an intriguing premise involving hypnotism, abduction and theft in a cops-and-robbers framework, but scuppers an inventive plot by exposing its soppy, bucket sized heart far too long.
A respected law enforcer admits to stealing some important documents from a police safe, but claims to have been hypnotically influenced and leaves an unsolved case behind when he commits suicide. When moody, hard-boiled copper Ken-Li (Ekin Cheng) is assigned to the case, he falls into a world of chaos when he enlists the help of "hypnogenesis" expert Jack Lai (Leon Lai). Jailed for manslaughter, Jack specialises in manipulating people against their will by unlocking the secrets to their heart.
Lai knows whom the culprit is - a man called "The Mindhunter" - and promises to identify him after showing Ken and backup to his hotel room. But the cryptic criminal seems to be one step ahead, and eludes the police after an exciting rooftop chase. Shortly afterward Ken and his fellow officers are instructed to guard expensive jewels at an auction, but Lai has been planted to mentally disarm the police, grab the goodies and scram as fast as he can.
Tapping into Ken's soft spot for on and off girlfriend Brenda, Lai uses him to take the jewels and naturally gets him into the deepest of trouble. Going on the run, Ken has to not only fight the police, but also solve the case. With the sympathetic Brenda's help he discovers that there's a lot more to it than meets the eye, and he finds that Lai is but a pawn on the board, in thrall to another, more ruthless mastermind who has something the convict so desperately wants.
Directed by Benny Chan, HEROIC DUO features some crisp camerawork and inventive visuals to complement the film's content. For a feature about unlocking strata of the human brain, we are provided with fittingly layered compositions such as the cluster of auction benches, and the huddle of bookshelves at Lai's latest hypnogenesis lecture, composed in depth to emphasise the dimensions that will be peeled away. Despite featuring a subdued, greyish palette for the most part, there is an inspired choice of locations, such as a vacant shipyard, and some cluttered hotel roofs where an atmospheric chase unfolds. Action is fast-paced and exciting. Instead of the Hong Kong tendency to linger on one fight in a fussy manner, brisk cutting between scenes generates tension and suspense.
In spite of this, form and content do not necessarily constitute a fine film, unless there is an attitude to match. This, unfortunately, is where HEROIC DUO fails. Despite the old adage that one should not allow the heart to rule the head, shifty Lai's hypnotherapy thesis is a puffed up form of emotional manipulation, and he can basically bend a subject's will when he finds out who they fancy: bad news for Ken and Brenda, then! Consistent with this outlook, the film projects a lot of emotional manipulation on the viewer, too, especially with the well-worn device of using blind women and cute cherubs as a means to invoke sympathy and pity. Despite a nail biting rush to save them from an airless vacuum chamber at the end, in essence HEROIC DUO is more cute than cutting.
A decent production all round, the film looks very competent throughout, has some very well crafted action sequences and impressive stunts (including a handcuffed policeman teetering from an unstable rooftop ladder) and the performers hardly disgrace themselves. Best of all is Leon Lai, whose languid features are well suited to the soporific Jack Lai. Ekin Chen, with his small face and dyed hair, looks a little too prissy to be hard as nails, brooding Ken-Li, but for a film whose credo is that love makes the world go round, maybe he is quite appropriate after all.
As is usual with Tartan, the DVD doesn't shirk on special features, but unfortunately they try to hype the picture too much instead of enlightening us as to what we've seen.
Review by Matthew Sanderson
|Released by Tartan UK|
|Region All PAL|
|Extras : see main review|