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“I Am a Hero”. (Shaw Organisation)

Review: ‘I Am a Hero’ ups the standard of zombie violence

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 127 minutes (~2 hours)

“I Am a Hero” is a zombie horror film that is adapted from the manga series of the same name. A manga artist finds himself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and must rise to the occasion if he is to survive this disaster. It stars Yo Oizumi (Hideo Suzuki), Kasumi Arimura (Hiromi Hayakari), and Masami Nagasawa (Yabu). It is rated M-18.

“I Am a Hero” will inevitably be compared with “Train to Busan” since they are both Asian zombie films that have come out in the same year. However, it’s best to go in without expectations since they are two totally different beasts. Their only commonality is zombies, and beyond that, it’s really apples to oranges.

Word of advice: don’t bring food in. You might not be able to finish your snacks.

Highlights

Fast paced action

There are no elaborate duels or tricky chase sequences in “I Am a Hero” — zombie battles are hardcore, violent scrimmages that always end in a fatality (whether it is human or zombie). It goes against the grain of the usual graceful fighting styles of zombie hunters, because here they either take a pick in the head or a shotgun to the face. The wanton violence increases the pace of the film and creates stronger tension because we can’t anticipate what will happen next, and you’re never quite sure if they’ll succeed in lopping off the zombie’s head or only part of his jaw.

Character evolution

Although it’s telegraphed from the very beginning, Hideo’s character evolution is unlike the usual story arc because even in the later Acts, he’s still ineffectually cowering for his life. Yet you can tell that he desires to be a great hero one day, and this juxtaposition of passivity and imagination is what builds up our sympathy for him. He might not be the traditional zombie film hero, but you’re still rooting for him.

Horrifying zombies and injuries

Zombies are never cleanly defeated here. They’re shredded, piece by piece, by suboptimal weapons like golf clubs or staple guns, and require a good portion of their head to be destroyed before they finally stop moving. In fact, zombies bite the faces of humans a bit too often in this film. It’s always cringe inducing, and you don’t just get blood everywhere. It’s a hearty helping of innards, flesh, and blood that splatter the floors of the film.

Letdowns

Hiromi Hayakari could have been replaced by a large cardboard cutout

Hiromi fulfils an indeterminable role in the film. I mean, what exactly is she supposed to be? She’s liability, asset, love interest, and a hundred other things, but the film never follows through on what exactly she’s supposed to be. It’s not that she could be easily replaced either, because she does serve a plot function. It’s just that she seems to be a multi-purpose cardboard cutout that becomes whatever is necessary for the movie to move on. At least she’s a pretty cardboard cutout.

Some portions are over the top and cartoony

The movie is distinctly Japanese because the imaging for the zombies can get hilarious at times. The closeup of their veins popping as their faces distend is something that could work for an anime, but looks incredibly unrealistic in what is otherwise a gory, bloody film. In an odd way, it works because it disarms you into thinking it will be some silly zombie show, then sends maniacal face eaters against the protagonists to horrify you with the level of violence.

“I Am a Hero” ups the standard of zombie violence.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? If you like zombie films.

Score: 3.5/5

“I Am a Hero” opens in cinemas:
- 20 October 2016 (Singapore)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes atmarcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.