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Original Title:
Sha shou hu die meng

Hong Kong 1989

Crime, Drama, Action

Patrick Tam

Kenny Bee
Joey Wang
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Chan Wai-Man
Kwan Hoi-Shan
Gordon Liu
Cheung Tat-Ming
Ng Man Tat
Wong Chi Keung
Gam Lui

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My Heart is that Eternal Rose

Story: Rick (Kenny Bee) often kills time hanging out at Cheung's (Kwan Hoi-Shan) bar. Not without a reason since he has fallen in love with Cheung's daughter Lap (Joey Wang). She works at her father's side and even though she doesn't dislike Rick there is still something missing for her to start seeing him. However, soon there is no time to think about something like romantic relationships as an old friend of Cheung's past as a gangster turns up at his door and begs him to illegally get his son into the country. Having no other choice Cheung agrees and gets help from Rick. But suddenly everything goes wrong. The son of his friend gets shot and a policeman loses his life, too. Rick flees the country after Lap promises to follow him, but Lap is now doing everything in her power to get her father free, who has been kidnapped by his old friend. She is looking for help from gangster boss Shen (Chan Wai-Man), who actually rescues her father after she has become his new girlfriend.
Years later Rick returns to his country as a contract killer and runs into Lap. With the help of a friend (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) she wants to leave Shen and flee the country with Rick. However, Shen can't allow this to happen...

Review: "My Heart is that Eternal Rose" is a nice HK-flick in the footsteps of the Heroic-Bloodshed genre. In the end, this movie proves to be an unspectacular genre entry, though, which may have its share of good moments, but apart from that doesn't deliver anything special. Too often the movie also proves to be too melodramatic and overacted which is something that goes hand in hand with the genre from the very beginning and in fact also never really stood out too negatively but in this case simply can't emotionally touch the viewer, making the dramatic scenes feel empty. The reason why Patrick Tam's work feels so cold is first and foremost Kenny Bee who only at the beginning manages to give his character some charisma but later on just seems wooden and shallow.

Joey Wang ("A Chinese Ghost Story") is always a treat for the eye but she also never manages to make the spark between her and the viewer ignite. Lap always remains rather shallow and only during a few dramatic scenes Wang can show a little bit more of her acting. But that surely isn't enough to make the tragical romantic relationship between her and Rick seem believable. There just isn't any chemistry between them which is also why the rest of the movie never feels as dramatic as it most likely was the intention of the director. It also doesn't make things any better that Rick isn't anywhere to be seen in the film for quite a while and then returns to his country changed into a coldblooded killer. Why is Lap still in love with this man? All of that isn't of any real importance because for her father's sake she stays at Shen's side until her father eventually dies. Now there is no longer any reason for her not to run back into Rick's arms. But Rick is still struggling with his feelings for the girl since she ended their relationship through just a letter years ago.

As you can see the story revolves a bit around heartache but never becomes a cheap romance. The mood of "My Heart is that Eternal Rose" might be a bit more tranquil compared to other Heroic Bloodshed pictures, but the movie by far doesn't become a simple romance because of that either.
Even though we are presented with some clichéloaden character drawings, like that of the father who drowns his sorrows in alcohol because his daughter has sold herself for him, it's in fact those scenes that can keep up our interest in the movie. However, with the death of one of the supporting characters the director deals in a pretty unceremonious manner as if there were a gap in the screenplay. Fortunately, there is Tony Leung in one of the supporting roles who can raise the acting niveau in the movie a lot. Being a supporting character he never gets the time on screen that would have been good for the movie, but without him the drama probably would have unfolded in an even more distanced fashion.

If you wonder why the pictures are such a feast for the eyes at times, you should know that Christopher Doyle has been behind the camera, therefore raising the cinematography's level every now and then. Nonetheless, some freeze frames between the fade-in and fade-outs seem rather cheap. On the other hand this is a typical trademark for 80's HK-movies.
As already said, for an action movie there are unusually little shootouts to be found. Still, during the last 30 minutes director Tam makes up for that and gives us a few slick shootouts. Actually, they don't stick out with any great choreography, thus if that's what you are looking for you will still feel more at home in John Woo movies, but the amount of depicted blood is nonetheless quite high. Moreover, especially during the last shooting there is some nice alteration between slow-mo and hectical, jumpy editing. Even though the finale might leave us with the credits screen rather unceremoniously and because of that emotionally makes us feel appalingly unaffected, it is yet nice to look at.

With that many negative aspects you have to wonder for whom this film is actually recommdable. Well, surely for any HK-movie-enthusiast. The story may be written according to a well-tried formula, but luckily "My Heart is that Eternal Rose" has the same magic to it that made HK cinema in the eigthies so popular. Action movie fans will find out with regret that there is in fact only little action here, but the film is entertaining nevertheless. If director Tam would have put more focus on a neat and captivating screenplay some scenes wouldn't have felt so articifially forced into the movie. But the slightly romantic touch can give the film its very own special character. Nonetheless, this movie is mainly recommendable for genre fans.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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