Blog Archives

Reign of Assassins (2010)

Sometimes the overwhelming success of a particular genre film can have an unfortunate effect on the movies following it. I’m talking here about Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which has become so popular and awarded since its release in 2000 that it’s now the gold standard for martial arts films. It has allowed lazy film publicists, uninformed film reviewers and the general public to label a new kung fu / martial arts film as simply being not as good, or … (read more)

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Red Cliff (2009)

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When Cantonese director John Woo left Hong Kong for Hollywood in the mid-1990s, many people expected him to become one of the giants of world cinema. His American movies turned out to be, at best, problematic and his talent for combining strong human drama and rip-roaring action sequences was never fully realised. His most recent Hollywood film was Paycheck, I doubt in the history of American movies has a more apt title ever been given.

Two years ago, Woo … (read more)

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The Killer (1989)

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I’m a superlative kinda guy. The third most common phrase in my vocabulary is “It’s the greatest film ever made!” and probably a full half of the films I’ve seen in my nineteen and one-half years on this Earth have been referred to in that way. It may be that at the moment of utterance I might actually mean I what I’m saying – or it might not. It doesn’t really matter unless I describe something in this way more … (read more)

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From Riches to Rags (1977)

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Mr. ‘Heroic Bloodshed’ doing comedy?! Yeah, this was Woo’s bread and butter in the early days before he really hit his straps with A Better Tomorrow. This may not feel particularly Wooian (yes I made it up, but it may catch on) but it’s not a bad little film. For about the first two thirds it’s quite a nice (but pretty pointless) comedy about two guys trying to get rich; it hints at a deeper meaning (a satire on … (read more)

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Hard-Boiled (1992)

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There are two types of John Woo fan. There’s the John Woo fan who prefers The Killer, and there’s the John Woo fan who likes Hard-Boiled the best. Now, this is not to say that, in expressing a particular love for one film, the fan is immediately and necessarily prohibited from taking any pleasure from the Other Option – far from it! A fan of The Killer may still groove on Hard-Boiled and vice versa. But as much as … (read more)

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Heroes Shed No Tears (1986)

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Made in 1983, this was shelved, then released in 1986 to cash in on the success of A Better Tomorrow. For about one minute it’s a good film. Unfortunately, there’s 84 more minutes, none of them remotely good.

This is regarded as Woo’s first stumbling step in the Heroic Bloodshed genre, and he’s disowned this because the studio added soft core sex and extra gore without his approval. If it were mine, I’d disown it out of sheer embarrassment. … (read more)

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A Better Tomorrow (1986)

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This is where legends were made.

Little known director John Woo was hired to direct a gangster film, but had the idea that it would use the warrior code of a swordplay film, exchanging the swords for guns. In the role of the lead killer he cast television drama star Chow Yun Fat, against the wishes of the studio, but Yun Fat had exactly the right ‘everyman’ qualities that Woo was looking for. He plays Mark Gor, the close buddy … (read more)

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A Better Tomorrow 2 (1987)

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The creative partnership of director John Woo and producer Tsui Hark came unstuck during this sequel to the 1986 smash hit A Better Tomorrow. The result is a somewhat schizophrenic picture which manages to quadruple the body count of the original film, but at some cost to the plot and soul. The first problem Woo faced was the fact that a popular character had been killed off last time – no problem, the old identical twin routine saves the … (read more)

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