We’re keeping the five-star foreign factor going with another must-see gem one critic proclaimed ‘guaranteed to tingle the most jaded moviegoers palate’ (good quote Joe Leydon of the Houston Post!) – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! We’re diving headfirst with two guns drawn into a masterpiece so mesmerizing, so unique and so utterly breathtaking that it literally inspired waves of action films that followed. It took all the typical tropes audiences associated with guns and ammo and infused it with a signature style and one hundred percent pure adrenaline for a cinematic experience that needed to be seen to be believed. One bad hitman. One tough cop. And ten thousand bullets. (Thanks poster!) And that’s just in the first five minutes of….”The Killer!”
Ah Jong is a professional hitman. He’s fast, quick, precise and focused, but during one job he accidently blinds young beautiful nightclub singer Jennie during a shootout. A rare killer with a conscience, Ah Jong seeks out the singer afterward and finds out the incident has left her near-blind. So he becomes driven and vows to complete the next job to pay for a sight-saving corneal transplant Jennie needs. But he will have to face Triad gangsters, his own bound-by-duty handler and a cop determined to take him down to complete his task.
Yes, the story here is a pretty basic one and frankly just sets the stage for the visuals – but what tasty visuals they are. Director John Woo infuses all the typical tough guy devices – gun battles, car chases and stunt work galore – but stages his spectacle like a well-choreographed ballet and if you’ve never witnessed his early Hong Kong film work it’s like discovering the Ark of the Covenant. There’s so much whimsy and wonder in his two-fisted gun battles, blood spewing uppercuts and barrage of up-close gun shots you can feel, all of which lovingly escalate over the course of the film (unlike the equally tasty “Hard Boiled” which goes full force and never looks back!) – a true sight to be seen.
But his visual work here is never at the expense of the acting and it’s especially evident in the charm, charisma and layered work of his leading man Chow Yun-Fat. A tough guy with a sensitive side, Chow is the epitome of cool and his nuanced work here never feels forced. Matched with Danny Lee as the determined detective and especially Chu Kong as his dutiful friend and sorrowful partner Fung Sei, Chow and company shine bright and there’s more than enough equally impressive dramatic work to match the films high body count.
Though not everyone is familiar with Woo’s early work (except true cine-geeks!), most came to know him from his ho-hum American films like “Face/Off,” “Broken Arrow” and “Windtalkers” and it’s a shame. (The amazing “Red Cliff” notwithstanding!) It was his raw and real passion early on to create something cinema had never seen before with flicks like “The Killer,” “Hard Boiled” and “A Better Tomorrow 1&2” that made Woo a film force to be reckoned with. Action movies come and go, but finding the beauty in the blood is what truly turns a fun flick killer.
Title: “The Killer”
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh
Director: John Woo
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Company: Circle Films