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This story is the tale of two brothers: one a successful counterfeiter and the younger a fledgling graduate of the HK police academy. The plot revolves around the split when the younger brother learns the other is a criminal and the efforts of the criminal brother to reform. Along the way are plenty of heists, double-crosses, and shoot outs. Written by
Victor R. Volkman <email@example.com>
Mark and Ho are gangsters for a major syndicate. Ho's brother Kit is unaware of his brother's lifestyle and himself is an ambitious police officer. However when Ho is betrayed by the bosses he is sent to jail and his father murdered, leaving Kit marked within the force and bitter towards Ho. Mark takes revenge on those who set up Ho but suffers severe damage to his leg as a result. When Ho comes out of prison Mark is reduced to cleaning up for new boss Shing. Ho and Mark resolve to move on, but Shing has other ideas and also plans to deal with Kit to stop him investigating. With the police and mob closing in Ho, Mark and Kit are forced to take a stand.
As part of my build up to see Bullet Proof Monk I have been watching some of Mr Chow's HK action movies again just to remind me how good an actor he is when he is used well. A Better Tomorrow was Chow's big break through from television to movies and also the film that kick started John Woo's career after a couple of commercial failures. The plot is nicely overwrought and has a strong focus on the male relationship of friends and brothers. Honour plays strong in all scenes and it is actually quite involving despite the focus on gun play and action.
The action is good but dated. This is to be expected after about 20 years but it does still stand up well. The action is pretty over the top but also well choreographed to appear even more exciting than it is. Happily the plot stands up by itself and the film has a lot less action than later Woo films The Killer and Hard Boiled. I really got into the lives and destinies of the men involved and the strength of feeling and, perhaps, debts of honour, between them was palatable.
The strong characters are greatly helped by strong actors in all the leads. Chow is particularly good as he has to play two very different stages of his character and does them both very well (although the supercool part must have come easier to him). Ti Lung is clearly the lead here and does good work even if he is a little too righteous and moral to be a gangster. Leslie Cheung is good after a slow start required by his character. Lee Waise plays a good villain and only the female characters are as weak as they often are in these films.
Overall this film is regarded as a classic and responsible for the birth of the genre and certainly the genesis of many Hollywood action movies of today (how many multiplex goers who marvelled over the lobby shootout in the Matrix have even heard of this film?). It has dated a little bit but the action is still as outrageous as ever and still as exciting, despite a slight feeling of seeing it bigger somewhere else. The film's main strength to me is simply the male characters' relationships within the plot they get me involved in the film and make the action even more dramatic.
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