7.7/10
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61 user 42 critic

Die xue jie tou (1990)

Not Rated | | Action, Crime, Drama | 17 August 1990 (Hong Kong)
When three close friends escape from Hong Kong to war-time Saigon to start a criminal's life, they all go through a harrowing experience which totally shatters their lives and their friendship forever.

Director:

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1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Ben / Siu Bun (as Tony Chiu Wai Leung)
...
Frank / Fai Jai
...
Paul / Sau Ming
...
Luke / Lok
Yolinda Yam ...
Sally Yan Sau Ching
Chung Lin ...
Mr. Y.S. Leong
...
Jane / Siu Jan
Kan-Wing Tsang ...
Jane's father
Hang Shuen So ...
Jane's mother
...
Policeman
...
Ben's mother
...
Paul's father
San Yan Siao ...
Mr. Shing
Tin Hung Yee ...
Ringo
Yun Pei ...
Frank's mother

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Storyline

In 1967, on the way to the wedding of a friend a young man is accosted by a local gang member. Later, the three friends administer justice, in the process of which the gang member is killed, so they leave Hong Kong to avoid the police and the gang. They run black market supplies to Saigon and get embroiled in the war, being arrested as Viet Cong, then later captured by the Viet Cong, and find that their friendship is tested to the limits as they try to escape. Written by Ed Sutton <esutton@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Release Date:

17 August 1990 (Hong Kong)  »

Also Known As:

Bullet in the Head  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$3,500,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (heavily cut) (video)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

John Woo rewrote much of the script to incorporate his reaction to the massacre in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Woo has described this project as his equivalent of Apocalypse Now (1979), as it had the same exhausting and draining effect on him as that film had on Francis Ford Coppola. See more »

Goofs

When the action moves to Vietnam the movie posters ('Dien Bien Phu', etc.) shown are films that came out well after the Vietnam war was over. See more »

Quotes

Frank: You two are my big brothers.
Paul: What does that mean? As long as we're united that's enough.
Ben: Being friends is enough! There's no division of rank between friends.
See more »

Connections

References The Deer Hunter (1978) See more »

Soundtracks

I'm a Believer
Written by Neil Diamond
Performed by The Monkees
S.E. Asia Music
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User Reviews

Poignant and unprecedented film which is emotionally disturbing.
20 March 1999 | by (New Jersey, USA) – See all my reviews

One of the most intense, powerful, and profound cinematic motion pictures. BULLET IN THE HEAD (The original Cantonese title is known as DIE XUE JIE TOU.) is mesmerizing and perplexing, yet equally emotional motion picture that gives the audience a completely different perspective on the Vietnam War...and how this event has changed the lives of three friends forever.

Ben (Tony Leung), Frank (Jacky Cheung), and Paul (Waise Lee) are three companions who have decided to escape from the perils of their native homeland in Hong Kong. Since Ben and his other two friends wanted to escape from their troublesome pasts, they felt that they could start over and make new, enriching lives for themselves. The three saw opportunity in the country of Vietnam. Little do these three realized that no matter where they would settle, violence was bound to ensue.

In 1967, the conflict between North and South Vietnam has elevated. Riots have been precipitated, fear and panic are widespread, and carnage is rampant. The three main characters are unfortunately caught in the middle of the Vietnam War. Eventually, more mayhem is not far behind.

As the three are trapped and incarcerated in the prisons of the Vietcong main quarters, their friendship with each other is slowly disintegrating...their lives hang in the balance... Whether all three of them can trust each other now and make it out alive is a question that remains ambiguous...

BULLET IN THE HEAD is one of the most sickening albeit cathartic films the viewer will ever witness. Director John Woo is definitely one of the most contemporary action directors around. He spares no punches or bullets with his incredible bursts of action sequences; yet he can still deliver a striking message about the powers of morality and how a humane attitude can help overcome all opposition. BULLET IN THE HEAD has more than enough action to satiate viewers of effervescent action films. There are tons of explosions, shoot-outs, and an even riveting helicopter rescue mission that is a true, vivid climax. These haunting images of BULLET IN THE HEAD, from the unspeakable acts of slaughter, to the moments where friendships triumph over all, will paint an indelible picture in one's mind.

BULLET IN THE HEAD is an unconventional, action-packed film that is moving and enthralling. The disturbing violence in this movie grips the audience as it coerces them to feel the pain. BULLET IN THE HEAD, instead of glorifying violence, rather shows the anguish, the abhorrence, and the abomination of how a once potentially prosperous country now lays in shambles thanks to the devastating war. Cities have been destroyed, villages are burned, and lives are forever scarred, physically and mentally.

Through the experiences of three unlikely heroes in BULLET IN THE HEAD, the viewer can commiserate with all the suffering the people in Vietnam have tangibly felt. The realism of the atrocities of the Vietnam War are captured thanks to the astute direction by John Woo.

BULLET IN THE HEAD is one movie which will adhere to your thoughts forever, even if you watch it only once. This film has excellent action scenes, and a constant mix of feelings as the movie jerks around with the character's emotions. They range from victorious, to heartbroken, to horrific. The cast, including the three leads along with Simon Yam and Fennie Yuen are excellent.

BULLET IN THE HEAD may well be John Woo's best film. Although the graphic violence in BULLET IN THE HEAD is unbearable, it is not gratuitous. The inhumanity of the supercilious villains is shown as they evoke trepidation in their victim's eyes. BULLET IN THE HEAD is one violent, relentlessly brutal yet provocative thriller.

If you feel that you are mature enough to handle the violence in BULLET IN THE HEAD, then by all means, rent this film. You'll discover the true brilliance of John Woo in this rarely seen film in America. He has talent for creating some of the most versatile action films ever! Thrills, character development, and a thought-provoking plot all commingle together in BULLET IN THE HEAD. This is one movie that is impossible to watch throughout its entire duration without cringing, but the chance to see this rare gem is well worth the time.

RATING: ***1/2 out of ****.


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