The Killer

The Killer

Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee

"One of the ten best films of the year." -- Village Voice
"Dizzying thrills!" -- Rolling Stone
"Outrageous...supercharged...go-for-broke cinema." -- Los Angeles Times

Winner of the 1990 Hong Kong Film Award for Best Director

Manadrin title: Die Xue Shaing Xiong (A Pair of Blood Spattering Heroes)

AKA: Blast Killers

Golden Princess, 1989, 107 min.

Director: John Woo
Stars: Chow Yun-Fat ("Jeff"), Danny Lee ("Li"), Sally Yeh ("Jennie"), Chu Kong ("Sydney"), Shing Fui On ("Johnny Weng"), Kenneth Tsang ("Hawk")
Producer: Tsui Hark
Writer: John Woo
Cinematographers: Peter Pao and Wong Wing-Hang
Editor: Luk Man-Wah

Available on video (full frame and dubbed or subtitled or widescreen and subtitled) from Fox Lorber

Available on DVD from Fox Lorber and Dragon Dynasty -- reviews can be found here

Chow Yun-Fat

"One cop. One hitman. Ten thousand bullets."

Chow Yun-Fat plays Jeff, a hitman who has a change of heart after he accidentally blinds a night club singer named Jennie. He agrees to pull off one last job so he can pay for a cornea transplant for her. However, after Jeff is spotted after the job by hot-headed Inspector Li, the Triad views "the killer" as a threat and tries to kill him. Escaping his would-be assassins, Jeff (with the aid of his only friend, Sydney) tries to get the money the Triad owes him, with Li in hot pursuit. Eventually, Jeff and Li must join forces to survive, resulting in an awesome gunfight (inside a church, no less) and one of the most "un-Hollywood" endings ever filmed.

While Jennie's songs (which repeat throughout the film) get annoying and the symbolism can be a bit overbearing, The Killer (the film that brought Woo and CYF international recognition) is nonetheless a masterpiece of filmmaking. From the first shot to the last, this is Woo at his best. When I first saw this movie, I absolutely freaked -- there's quite simply nothing like it. If you consider yourself an action fan (or just a movie fan) and you haven't seen this, do so now.


Interesting trivia:

1) The beach shootout where Jeff saves the little girl is Woo's homage to Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo.

2) The "sunglasses gag" (where Jeff sees the reflection of his would-be killers in his sunglasses) was taken from Narazumo.

3) The shootout that happens after Sydney's double-cross was inspired by Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

4) Jennie's "vision" of Jeff behind a sea of blood is taken from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

5) Another Kubrick film, Barry Lyndon, provided the inspiration for using candles for dramatic lighting.

6) Jeff and Li are based on the protagonists from Chang Cheh's

7) The opening shootout in a bar and rescuing of a singer were taken from Le Samourai. Much of Chow Yun-Fat's performance of Jeff is derived from Le Samourai's Alain Delon.

8) The use of extreme close-ups and slow motion were inspired by Scorsese's Mean Streets.

9) Jeff and Li's "Mexican standoff" in Jennie's apartment was inspired by Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. Woo notes on the Fox Lorber DVD commentary that Mad magazine's "Spy vs. Spy" also played a part in constructing this scene.

10) The Wild Bunch also provided the inspiration for Jeff and Li's "pep talk" to each other before they enter the last part of the church shootout.

11) Using a church as the "entrance to Hell" (as Woo puts it on the Fox Lorber DVD commentary) or the place of the final confrontation between good and evil was inspired by the finale of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.

The following comments about The Killer by John Woo are from the Criterion Laserdisc/DVD (thanks to Ryan at the Hong Kong Movie DataBase for transcribing the commentary:

The Criterion DVD version has several scenes missing from the videotape version (thanks to Thomas A. Jones for the info; you can also view a couple of these at Red on White: The John Woo Site):

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