A lot of kung-fu heads will probably call blasphemy on me for this shit, but I have to say it: I don't really like the old-school set-in-the-past type chopsocky all that much. I'm not saying it doesn't have its place, but I grew up on American action movies. If you're gonna have punching and kicking, why not throw in some machine guns and car chases, too? I can relate to it more, and it provides more opportunities for interesting props and locations. You can only see so many bamboo dumpling houses get busted up before you want to see some shattering glass.
That's why I prefer Jet Li's contemporary movies to his period epics. I mean, yeah, everybody knows Once Upon a Time in China is a classic, but when they're not fighting, it's boring as hell. Maybe it's more interesting to Chinese people, but I just don't care about all the annoying villagers who keep getting into trouble and making Wong Fei Hung save their stupid asses. It's tedious. And then there's that Swordsman crap that everybody's always going on about. With all the colored lights and people flying through the air on cables, that shit feels like Cirque Du Soleil. It's just not my thing, man. I like kung-fu that's more or less ground-based, so that when people do make incredible leaps, it's a big deal, rather than the status quo.
Which brings us to My Father Is A Hero (or, as it says onscreen, My Father Is Hero. Which he is, since the father in question is Jet Li, who played the title role in Hero many years later). Jet Li plays this shady dude in mainland China who smokes cigarettes and neglects his son, Johnny, who's an awesome little ass-kicking kung-fu expert, just like Jet Li used to be in real life. Jet's always getting into kickfights when he should be attending his son's kung-fu exhibitions, but his son loves him anyway. Then you find out that Jet is really a cop so deep undercover than he can't even tell his family about it, so they think he's really a criminal. Then the wife randomly coughs one day, so you know she's a goner. The only movie I've ever seen where someone coughing didn't mean that they were mortally ill was Inside Man, where Denzel coughs twice in the middle of his dialogue, then just excuses himself and continues talking. You know, like how sometimes people cough in real life and it doesn't mean they have TB. It's kind of the best part of the movie.
So anyway, even though his wife is dying at home, Jet takes this mission where he has to infiltrate this gang by helping this kindly criminal named G-Dog escape from jail and go on the run with him to Hong Kong. Personally, I think Jet should have let someone else take this assignment. It's not like he doesn't have a good excuse. His fucking wife is dying, for Christ's sake. Besides, it's not like he's saving the world with this shit. He's just trying to bust some gunrunners. Dude, Jet, you're a nice guy and all, but you have to get your priorities straight.
Let's talk about these gunrunners. The main one is always wearing sunglasses and white kid gloves. At first, I thought maybe later in the movie he was going to rip his face off and reveal that he was a Toon underneath, like maybe Bugs Bunny had gone bad. But that didn't happen. I guess he's just a germophobe who also happens to be sensitive to the light, like those kids from The Others. What a loser. All he needs now is an inhaler.
Then there's a whole shitload of plot and melodrama and whatnot, which is all pretty much ruined by the hilarious dubbing on my DVD (when a character gets some life-changing news, her response is, "That was great."). And there are a bunch of moments where I can't tell if the shit's that's happening is supposed to be weird or if it's just Chinese. Like when Johnny and his fat friend spell out Chinese words with ants. Weird? Or just Chinese? Or when the friend shows up at Johnny's house, hands him a paper bag, and says, "I brought you some bacon. Gotta go!" Is that a custom in China or is the fat friend supposed to be kind of wacky? If anybody can shed some light on this for me, I'd be appreciative.
So then there are two awesome action scenes. The first is at this restaurant that has a glass waterfall right in the middle of it that Jet can slide down while henchmen shoot out the glass with machine guns. Then somebody drives a car right into the restaurant and somebody explodes. Good stuff.
This is where Jet meets his dying wife's future replacement, Mommy II. She's a cop who's hot on his trail because she thinks he's a criminal, so she goes undercover with his family and bonds with his wife and son. Then the wife dies and gives her an envelope. This movie is all about people dying and giving each other envelopes. It happens like three or four times.
So now Mommy II and the kid are trying to find Jet, because now they both believe that he's a cop. And you can already see the shattered family unit being restored. I let it go in Red Wolf, but this time, I have to call bullshit. Jet Li, you were a terrible husband and you do not deserve to just jump right into a new relationship with this kung-fu lady cop. You need to spend some time alone to reconnect with your son and deal with your own issues of selfishness and secrecy before you are ready to fully commit yourself to another person.
Oh, but I forgot to mention that other awesome action scene. So the other kids at school have discovered that Johnny's dad is a criminal, so Johnny's got to kick all their asses. This is hands-down the best kid-fu ever. I know a lot of you are gonna be pulling for 3 Ninjas, but fuck 3 Ninjas. This kid is awesome. It's just like grown-up kung-fu, only smaller. He even kicks three dudes while in midair. I don't know about you, but I love watching kids get beat up in movies, so this was a real highlight for me.
So anyway, Johnny and Mommy II try to meet up with Jet, but then Johnny gets taken captive by the gang, who know that he's a cop's son but don't know that he's Jet's son. So Jet's gotta just sit there and pretend that he doesn't know the kid while the villain slams his face through a glass fucking table. Seriously, if nothing else, this is the only movie where an adorable little boy's face gets smashed through a sheet of glass. Call Guinness.
So Jet's solution is to choke the kid in front of everybody, knowing that Johnny knows "kung-fu breathing" and will survive. Imagine if this was an American movie. Can you picture, like, Matt Damn choking out a little kid in a movie, even if he was only pretending to kill him? How fucking awesome would that be? I want more kid-choking in movies. Dear Hollywood…
But the plan falls apart when Jet goes back to the garbage heap where they'd chucked his son's supposedly dead body and finds the gang waiting for him. The awesome part is that they've disguised themselves in garbage bags, so for a while, he's fighting the Attack of the Trashbag People. Then we've got various kinds of fu (sword-fu, fire extinguisher-fu, corpse-fu, etc.) on top of garbage trucks and inside your Standard-Issue Action Climax Warehouse Location. But the difference is, this time Jet and Johnny are working together as a team. This incredible adventure has brought them closer than ever before. It's too bad Mommy I couldn't be there.
(Another word about Mommy I. Before she died, she wrote a letter to Jet explaining that despite the fact that he's a terrible person who abandoned her on her deathbed because things got really hectic at work, she knew that he must have had a good reason for being such an asshole, even if she couldn't possibly imagine what it might be, being a girl and all. This is basically any patriarchal society's view of the perfect wife: Just shit out a kid and die, woman. I got things to do.)
Still, this last fight scene has the movie's most transcendentally ridiculous moment when Jet ties a rope to Johnny and swings him around on the end of it like a human yo-yo so he can kick motherfuckers. And he's really whipping him around, too, doing cool under-the-arm-and-around-the-back moves. A dude I was watching the movie with called this maneuver "kidchucks." Everybody's gonna want their own this Christmas.
In all honesty, though, Jet is still being a bad dad. I mean, it's great that he and his son have found an activity that they can share (ass-kicking), but is it really good parenting to let your kid fight a bunch of grown men with axes? I know the kid can handle himself, but shit could have very easily gone wrong, and then Jet would have to explain to his police captain why he let his 10-year-old son get killed in a kung-fu fight with international gunrunners. Not gonna look good on the report, in my opinion.
Anyway, this movie is probably a lot better than it might seem from this snarky-ass review. I really recommend it, in fact. It's got some excellent action, and the story brings up some interesting ideas, even if they're retarded. I'd imagine it would even be kind of tragic if it wasn't dubbed to sound like an episode of Voltron. But really, what you're going to remember is little Johnny learning to be a man by beating up other kids, going face-first through plate glass, and letting his father use him as a weapon. I don’t care what the title says: This little dude is the real hero.
Oh, and if this movie sounds familiar, you might have seen it under its American title, The Enforcer. Thank you, Dimension Home Video, for watering down the quirky flavor of Hong Kong cinema into something that sounds like a straight-to-video Dean Cain movie.