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Film / Just Heroes

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So... are you guys trying to shoot the audience, or each other?

Just Heroes is a 1989 Heroic Bloodshed film directed by John Woo, starring Danny Lee (from The Killer), David Chiang and Chen Kuan-tai (veteran Shaw Brothers action stars) as Blood Brothers from a triad syndicate who ends up being double-crossed after a hostile takeover.

Wai (David Chiang) and Sou (Danny Lee) are among the adopted sons of a murdered triad leader. After their adopted father's demise, they have to be initiated into the ranks of the triads, which is difficult for them both, because Wai have decided to go straight after giving up life as a mobster, while Sou is dealing with personal issues with his pregnant wife Annie. But, when The Mole responsible for their father's death have plans to wipe out all remaining heirs to seize total control of the syndicate, both brothers have to put their differences aside for a bloody final showdown.


While not really as popular as Woo's other films (like A Better Tomorrow, The Killer or Hard Boiled) in the heroic bloodshed genre, Just Heroes remains an entertaining (although not as action-laden) entry in Woo's filmography, filled with shootouts, manly bonding, brotherhood, and most of the trademarks John Woo is known for.

.. except the doves, that is. The Killer comes out a few months after this film, before Woo's obsession with the doves started going on to full-swing.


This film provides examples of:

  • Almost Dead Guy: Boss Tsao, Sou and Wai all sustains multiple gunshot wounds (some even in the gut!) by the conclusion of the final shootout, but they’re still alive. Although given that the credits start rolling when they’re still limping through their injuries, whether they survive or succumb is still debatable.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Sou and Wai during the two big shootouts in the drug warehouse and mainsion.
  • Badass Biker: Sou in the opening shootout, driving by on a motorcycle while holding a pistol and firing away as he goes, killing a few mooks along the way.
  • Big Fancy House: The climax takes place in Boss Tsao’s mansion, between more than two parties of opposing triads.
  • The Cameo: Lo Lieh shows up as a small-time mobster.
  • Car Fu: The drug warehouse raid have Wai driving his car into the building, crashing a path over everything he sees, before eventually stopping while Wai dives out to battle gangsters all over the place.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Wai’s sidekick in his fish breeding farm, a youngster in his early twenties who is aware of Wai’s past as a triad hitman and desperately wants to be a gangster just like Wai. Deconstructed after the final shootout, where a wounded Wai grabs his sidekick and forces him to look at Tai’s corpse.
    Sou: "Look at him! He’s a gangster and a triad leader… do you want to end up like him? Look!"
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The rival drug gang leader is killed by Sou and Wai halfway into the film, but later Tai turns out to be true Big Bad which they have to take down in the climax.
  • Faking the Dead: Sou fakes his death in the last arc of the film, arranging for Wai to “kill” him before coming back for a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Deliberately invoked in the final shootout. Sou smashed a mook in the face with the butt of his shotgun, causing the mook to fall off a balcony and hit the side of a chandelier on the way down. Said chandelier then collapses.
  • Forklift Fu: During the warehouse shootout, a random mook tries to run over Sou with a forklift. Sou simply shoots the mook before leaping aside.
  • Guns Akimbo: Its a John Woo film, so that's expected to happen. Sou and Wai both did this in the many shootouts they found themselves in.
  • In the Hood: During the assassination in the rain scene, the hitmen who killed Sou and Wai's adoptive father are wearing raincoats with face-concealing hoods.
  • I Work Alone: Invoked by Wai during the drug warehouse shootout when Sou comes over to assist him. Sou promptly leaves... then turns around and shoot a mook on a ledge above Wai.
    Sou: "I guess you still need me around here." (cue Back-to-Back Badass against remaining goons)
  • Leap and Fire: Happens more than once in the final shootout, where Sou and Wai would dive over tables, sofas, a piano and other barricades while firing their pistols.
  • The Lost Lenore: Sou had a rather depressing breakdown after Annie’s death by suicide halfway through the film.
  • Mexican Standoff: The final shootout ends with three parties – Sou and Wai, the triads, Tai and his mooks pointing weapons at each other, which quickly develops into a Mêlée à Trois.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Invoked by Tai during his forced takeover in the end.
    Tai: "Now that I’m in charge, who dares call me a traitor?"
  • Shoot the Hostage: Subverted in the final confrontation. Sou and Wai have killed off all of Tai's minions, but Tai is holding Boss Tsao at gunpoint as a Human Shield. Sou then apologizes to the boss... before shooting Boss Tsao in the knee, causing Tsao to fall down and allowing Sou and Wai to gun down Tai.
  • The Simple Life is Simple: Ex-hitman and triad leader Wai is rather content living as a fisherman, until Tai attempts to take over the triad and threaten Uncle Tsao’s life.
  • Shout-Out: A very blatant one to A Better Tomorrow. Wai's sidekick decides to "help out" in the final shootout, by hiding pistols and ammo in flower pots, and telling Wai (in the midst of gunfire to search the pots for extra firearms). Unfortunately, the sidekick forgot to load the guns before hiding them...
    Wai's sidekick: "Wow, this is so cool! Just like Mark from A Better Tomorrow..."
  • That Poor Plant: At one point in the final shootout, a mook gunned down by Sou falls backwards and snaps a tall potted plant into half.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Hua, during the quarry shootout scene. Sou shoots him in the throat at point blank and throws him out a moving vehicle, but somehow Hua survives that. Just as he's limping away from the scene, Sou then rams his car into Hua, before getting out and shooting the vehicle. Which then explodes while having Hua pinned underneath...
  • The Triads and the Tongs: The entire plot revolves around an uprising within a triad family and the power struggle between its three successors.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Several times, sometimes with the shooter (usually Wai or Sou) rolling sideways while firing pistols on their targets.
  • Wait Here: Wai said this to his Reckless Sidekick who decides to tag along uninvited into the shootout.