Directed by Terry Tong
Produced by John Shum
Written by Tsang Kan-Cheung
Cast: Tony Leung, Max Mo, Jacky Cheung Shing Fui-On, Adam Cheng, Ben Lam, Wu Ma, Philip Kwok, Sammo Hung, Lo Lieh, Yip San, and Elaine Jin
In an era when China is ruled by various warlords, and China falls into utter chaos. Many soldiers become bandits to steal from China’s peasants. One village fed up with being raided, so, decides to hire soldiers of their own to lead them in their fight against the bandits.
Akira Kurosawa’s, seminal work of Japanese cinema, Seven Samurai has been interpreted differently in countless adaptations and remakes. The Magnificent Seven is the most famous example and a western take on the basic concept of Seven Samurai. Seven Warriors follows in this grand tradition. It takes us to the early Republican era of China and the story gets a heroic bloodshed treatment.
As a remake, Seven Warriors is very indebted to its source material. The parallels are more than obvious to any fans of Seven Samurai. Although it hits the same beats as Akira Kurosawa’s work, the pacing is more frantic. Seven Samurai’s runtime clocks in over 3 hours of screentime whereas the runtime of Seven Warriors totals to just under 100 minutes. Such a disparity in runtimes should tell that both films have different priorities. One is a deliberately paced study in class relations and conflict. The other is more of a fast-moving presentation of the chaos that overtook China following the collapse of the Qing dynasty. Yet, the lingering themes of Seven Samurai in Seven Warriors are still felt. But, it never really come into their own or come close anywhere to the Seven Samurai’s level of storytelling.
Seven Samurai is hailed as the exemplar of how to flesh out characters in ensemble pictures. Ironically, Seven Warriors is less keen on fleshing out its cast. Much of the titular seven warriors don’t developed beyond their introduction. A drawback that is an inevitable outcome of the short running time. Although the seven warriors themselves could be described cynically as carbon copies of their Japanese counterparts. The actual casting is solid enough that each of the respective seven warriors performs their role well. Adam Cheung is a worthy successor to Takashi Shimura. Chi Da Fu carries the mantle of a world-weary leader well. Tony Leung, plays Wong Way-Wu, the ”Kikuchiyo” of Seven Warriors. Wong Way-Wu is a good-hearted neurotic wanderer. He is much of the heart of the motley crew. Tony Leung brings a youthful intensity that we would see again in Bullet In The Head. Mad Mox’s Yung is the amicable badass that forms a brotherly bond with Wong Way-Wu. Jacky Cheung’s character is the blandest of the bunch. His character is just a monotonous hardass but, at least, gets one heck of a sendoff. Shing On gets a rare chance to play a hero in the form of a gentle giant known as Karl. Ghost is an aged treasure seeking adventurer that makes more trouble than he is worth. Mao the supposedly deadliest of the group doesn’t get enough moments to prove much of his prowess.
These bands of warriors never felt like a cohesive unit. Another flaw that’s rooted in the short running time. Their bond remains stillborn. It hurts the effectiveness of a story that is meant to celebrate the value of teamwork.
The quick pace might dilute the elements from Seven Samurai,but the quick pace has the story cutting to the chase well. Also, the quick pace enables the narrative to set its sight on the final showdown and work towards an explosive finale. That finale rewards us with great action that is packed to the brim with high flying gunplay and pyrotechnics. The action doesn’t relent close until half an hour. Stakes ratchets up so much so that it pretty much spills over into being a pitched battle.
A compressed take on a Japanese classic that feels awkward and that tells the same story in a much inferior way. This hokey remake even so is a fun ride for its intense action and talented cast that pull their own weight pretty well.