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Film / Heroes Shed No Tears

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Heroes Shed No Tears (1986) is John Woo’s first film, though it debuted in America after his better-known A Better Tomorrow.

It tells the story of a small group of Hong Konger mercenaries, sent into Vietnam in order to capture a general controlling the drug trade in the Golden Triangle and thus put a stop to the flow of drugs into Hong Kong. Things become more complicated soon after the capture, when they save a French girl from the local Vietnamese colonel, who swears to hunt them down, and joins forces with the general’s Black Squadron, who are determined to rescue him.

The plot has a few additional random elements (like the cannibalism of one of group’s mercenaries or the destructive gambling at the village where the group stops over), but it never gets much deeper than that.


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This film features the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: The general that team is asked to capture is generally polite and does not actually do anything villainous off-screen (not that he had much of a chance to as a captive).
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Chin’s sister-in-law slaps him several times near the end to convince him to go on in spite of all his friends that were killed. It does seem to work.
  • Asshole Victim: When Chau Sang gets killed, it’s rather hard to sympathize with the grieving put up but the rest of the team over his death.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Black Squadron and other mooks just don’t know how to give up. Eventually, when the body count reaches into hundreds, the last dozen of Colonel's soldiers do see sense in deserting colonel. The Black Squadron remains steadfast.
  • Attempted Rape: The French girl almost gets raped after her husband is executed. She barely manages to flee, with her shirt torn off.
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  • Bad Boss: When the colonel's remaining dozen soldiers finally had enough of him and decide to leave, he kills one of them and attempts to get the others, but they manage to flee.
  • Berserk Button: When Louise attempts to defuse the situation with colonel and say that they’re friends with Vietnamese, the colonel mentions the French invasion of Indochina and gets even more pissed off.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Zig-Zagged depending on the scene. Sometimes we see good old-fashioned gore, sometimes rows of mooks just fall with maybe a bullet hole on each and nothing else.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The fate of the French journalist Louise near the beginning of the film.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Zig Zagged Trope. Most of the film plays the trope straight, but the final duel between Chin and the Colonel sees both run out of bullets early on, forcing them to melee each other with oars.
  • Car Chase: There’s a rather unspectacular one where the Black Squadron jeep chases after the heroes’ one, only to get rapidly gunned down.
  • Captain Obvious: "She’s dead.", said of a body found hanging off a tree upside down with a slit throat.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Chin’s jeep arrives at a Vietnamese checkpoint just in time to witness the execution of a French journalist, and the attempted rape of his wife.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Chin’s son survives a fire started by the general’s henchmen by digging himself barely a couple centimeters deep into the ground, and covering himself with some straw. Never mind the heat, or the fact that the fire would have burnt out all oxygen in the air long ago.
  • Cool Shades: Colonel is introduced in a scene where he shaves then puts dark shades on, in a genuinely cool moment.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Louise’s wife shows the soldiers a middle finger at a checkpoint, so the colonel’s reaction is to shoot her husband in the head and allow his men to sexually assault her. Before that, their Vietnamese driver got decapitated for knocking a flag pole over.
  • Downer Ending: All of Chin’s friends have been killed and he’s going to have to try to raise his son alone, because his sister-in-law is also dead. They still succeed at their mission of delivering the general, but all they’re going to get as a reward is a green card to the US, and there’s no guarantee it’ll make their situation better.
  • Dying as Yourself: The lost comrade of Chin does this at the end. He has lived with the guilt of deserting during the war many years ago, and eventually chooses to blow himself up alongside the two girls who would have otherwise become the Black Squadron's sex slaves.
  • Eagleland: Chin seems to think of America as Type 1, given that he’s volunteered to do this mission to get a green card for him and for his son. However, his friend and former comrade is skeptical of this, telling him this:
    "Do you think that America is paradise? It just has good and bad people there, the same as Hong Kong."
  • Enemy Mine: The Black Squadron and Colonel’s soldiers unite and take on Chin’s crew together: the former get to rescue their general, the latter gets to kill Chin. This condition gets broken later on, when Colonel's soldiers fire a mortar at the house Chin's crew is sheltering in, in spite of the Squadron's protests about the general also being there.
  • Eyepatch of Power: The colonel sports one for the rest of the film after getting blinded in one eye by Chin in their first engagement.
  • Eye Scream: Chin gets suspended by his eyeballs (or something of a kind) when he’s captured by the Colonel. When he’s recovered, the picture is not pretty, though he still retains his eyesight.
    • The torture is caused by Chin shooting the Colonel through the eye earlier on from a Scope Snipe, which the Colonel survives but holds a grudge towards Chin. Later in the climax, Chin defeats the Colonel by punching him through his bandaged eye.
  • Fanservice: The two sex scenes near the end of the film that appear with almost no development but showcase loving shots of the two topless girls.
  • Fatal Family Photo: On two levels. Firstly, there’s the boy’s grandfather, who gets killed immediately after looking at the photo of the whole family. Secondly, there’s Chin’s sister-in-law who also looked at the photo and gets killed right at the end.
  • Flashback: There’s one when Chin meets his lost friend to the moment when the latter deserts from the shared engagement, presumably during the Japanese invasion of China.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: The first member of Chin’s group gets shot while they’re capturing the general. Everyone forgets about him soon after.
  • Gun Porn: The film opens with a loving close-up montage of Chin's crew assembling and reloading their guns.
  • Guns Akimbo: True to his name, Big Dog is strong enough to fight with two guns. At one point, he even dual wields a grenade launcher and a rifle.
  • Hope Spot: We get one with the French journalist Louise when he has a gun put into his mouth and the trigger pulled, only to find out that it was a blank (which in reality could still have resulted in serious burns, if not worse). Then, his wife shows the soldiers a middle finger as they attempt to drive away and the colonel shoots him in the head.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Early on in the film, Chau Sang and Chan Chung gamble over the steak the former has cooked. Once Chan wins it, he asks what it’s made of and learns that it’s cut from dead soldier’s behind. Cue Vomit Indiscretion Shot.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Chau Sang gets impaled by around a dozen spears from several directions. The Vietnamese colonel also gets impaled right through at the end.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Taken to the extreme in the film. Enemy soldiers can literally fire hundreds of rounds and miss. When they get a mortar late in the film, it takes them a dozen shots before they finally hit the house they were aiming at.
  • Improvised Weapon: In their final showdown, Chin and the Vietnamese Colonel end up fighting each other with oars after running out of bullets.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Yes, Chin’s son does in fact survive the film, when practically everyone else around him is dead.
  • It's Personal: Vietnamese colonel embarks on a personal revenge against Chin after the latter blinded him in one eye. He even forbids anyone else under his command from killing him.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: Big Dog gets stabbed in the leg with a spear at one point, but walks fine in the next scene. Similarly, Chin gets shot in the chest, then apparently hung up by his eyelids (or something of a kind), yet still lives.
  • Karmic Death: After behaving like a greedy, immoral asshole in his scenes, Chau Sang is finally killed when he attempts to steal jewellery off a corpse that wasn’t actually dead.
  • Killed Offscreen: The decapitation of a Vietnamese driver is not shown on-screen: we only see him dragged behind his car and the soldier’s sabre rise and fall. Given the level of gore in other scenes of the film, one suspects it was done because John Woo has run out of budget.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Big Dog, the mercenary with a machine gun and grenade launcher.
  • Made of Explodium: The car driven by Louise and his wife gets blown up like in every other action film.
  • Made of Iron: Chin survives being shot in the chest, and then hung by his eyeballs for three hours. After he’s taken off it, he gets to kick ass again after several hours.
  • Mercy Kill: Chan Chung gives one to Chau Sang after he has been mortally wounded with a dozen or so spears.
    • Chin’s friend also blows himself up near the end, both to set off a chain reaction of explosions amidst the enemy (though that doesn’t seem to do much) and to give a swift end to the two girls formerly in his care, who would have otherwise been Black Squadron’s sex slaves.
  • Moe Greene Special: See Scope Snipe below, although in this case, it’s not lethal.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. At one point, Chin’s son has to go pee, and the mercenaries have to wait for him and nearly get killed in the resulting ambush.
  • Nominal Hero: Chau Sang is very much this. He’s a cannibal and a gambler who was entirely OK with winning a girl from a village in a dice game. Luckily for her, Chan Chung bet his own money and won her back.
  • Not So Invincible After All: The heroes initially seem invincible as they mow down dozens of Vietnamese soldiers and General’s personal Black Squadron alike. Yet one by one, they fall, until there’s no-one but Chin, his son, and the general left alive.
  • Off with His Head!: The poor Vietnamese driver of the Louise’s car gets decapitated by the colonel's forces, apparently for driving foreigners and crashing into their base's flagpole.
  • Revenge by Proxy: The Vietnamese colonel loses an eye as a result of Chin's semi-successful Scope Snipe at the start of the film, and becomes determined to hunt him down. By the end, when Chin is about to leave Vietnam with the Black Squadron's general, he hugs his sister-in-law, only for her to suddenly get shot in the back by the colonel, so that he could bait Chin into their final showdown.
  • Scope Snipe: The Vietnamese colonel has this done to him by Chin. The bullet gets stuck in the scope, though, so he’s merely blinded in that eye by the broken glass, and wears an eyepatch for the rest of the film.
  • Serious Business: The small village where Chin and his crew stop over appears to take gambling in this way. They refuse multiple offers by Chang Chung to walk away, even leave his belongings, and instead continue to gamble more and more of their wealth away.
  • Slashed Throat: The French girl is eventually found hanging upside down, murdered in this way.
  • Straight Edge Evil: The general might make fortunes by selling cocaine, but he doesn’t partake in any drugs himself. When offered a joint by his captors, he refuses and says "I never touch the stuff", causing everyone else to laugh at the irony.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Chau Sang gets stabbed with a dozen or so spears. Arguably justifiable, given how much punishment the other heroes of the film can shrug off before dying.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Some of the Black Squadron’s mooks somehow manage to run into the path of the mortar fired by their allies.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Colonel decides to hang Chin by his eyelashes (or something), to see how long he’ll last instead of finishing him off. To be fair, Chin was already shot across the chest before that, but he miraculously recovered regardless.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When Colonel and his soldiers capture Chin’s son, they pour gasoline on the ground around him, set it on fire and leave. However, he survives thanks to blatant Convection Schmonvection.
  • You Killed My Father: Said by Chin’s sister-in-law word-for-word after the Black Squadron mooks invade her house. It never comes to much, mostly because said mooks get killed by Chin's group in the next few minutes.

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