Tonight’s Contenders: John Who? John Mutha-Fuckin’ Woo!

The godfather of Hong Kong action films, John Woo, is know for his high-powered fight scenes and relentless use of the “Mexican standoff”, slow-mo and dual-wielded pistols – the later often being the coveted Baretta 92. So buckle up, kids, and get ready for a high body count, because this week we pay homage to the Woo.

Most audiences are familiar with Woo’s Hollywood hits such as Broken Arrow, Face/Off and Mission Impossible 2, but few know he was cranking out top-notch action flics for over 20 years in his native Hong Kong before making the move to L.A. This week we survey some of Woo’s cult classics, films which provided the foundation of a career which would see him move on to work with $100-million budgets and legends such as John-Claude Van Damme, John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. Without further ado here are this weeks contenders:

A Better Tomorrow (1986) – 95min

Produced on a tight budget and launched with virtually no marketing, A Better Tomorrow exceeded all expectations and smashed Hong Kong box office records. Considered to be the film that launched Woo’s ascension into the Hong Kong cinema elite, it also saw the introduction of Yun-Fat Chow who quickly became Woo’s go-to actor for future lead roles. The plot-line follows a reformed ex-gangster as he tries to reconnect with his estranged policeman brother. The task is made that much more difficult as his former associates catch up with him while he is trying to make amends.

The Killer (1989) – 111min

Yun-Fat Chow returns as Ah Jong, a disillusioned assassin who accepts one last hit in hopes of raising funds to restore the vision of a singer he accidentally blinded, only to be double-crossed by his boss. A cult classic and cited inspiration to prolific filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, The Killer promises smoking barrels and dead bodies.

Bullet in the Head (1990) – 136min

In 1967 three close friends flee from Hong Kong to escape gangsters and the police ending up in war-torn Saigon. They begin dabbling in criminal enterprises of their own, leading to a harrowing experience which embroils them deep into the Vietnam war.  Soon they find themselves imprisoned and their friendship is tested to the limits as they try to escape.

Hard Boiled (1992) – 128 min

Woo’s final Hong Kong film before the move to Hollywood has all his classic stylings; egregious use of slow-motion, cut-throat villains, hyperbolic explosions and thousands of spent cartridges. Join Inspector “Tequila” Yeun, a tough-as-nails cop, as he teams up with an undercover agent to shut down a sinister mobster and his crew.

 

 

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