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.
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung,
A Hong Kong hitman accidentally blinds an innocent woman during a hit. He is determined to get her surgery to help her regain her sight but he needs to complete one more hit first. He completes the job but then is ambushed as he tries to escape: someone wants him dead. Meanwhile a resourceful, unorthodox police detective is hot on his trail.Written by
Before seeing a genuine Hong-Kong produced John Woo movie, I thought I knew what action was, and what the action-movie genre was capable of. I was wrong. The Killer was the single most impressive, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping action movie I had seen in years, and is now one of my favourite movies of any genre. It is #2 on my all-time list.
Why? First of all, the well-known poetic violence of the super-charged action scenes make for a tremendously exciting film. These combine choreographed bloodshed (there is an almost constant stream of bullets) with raw emotion that puts even the best Hollywood actioners to shame. Look at Hollywood action movies today; almost all Hollywood action is inspired (not to mention plagiarised) from the "heroic bloodshed films," the best of which is The Killer.
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are only the most obvious examples of American directors to put Woo's trademark stylized violence to use, and neither handle it as well as Woo.
But beyond this, the characters and the story are what drive this movie and what truly set it apart. The story of the relentless cop and the vicious killer is only the latest in a long line of detective stories, starting with Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe in the 19th century, and continuing in every cop show on TV today. The hero and the villain are practically the same; they are only divided by an almost arbitrary line called the law. In The Killer, both "Mickey Mouse" and "Dumbo" are unrelenting, capable, though misunderstood, professionals. Their motivations differ, but they both have the killer instinct. The classic storyline of the interaction of the two characters who eventually realize their similarities and end up working together has been seen before, but never has it been used to such effect as in The Killer.
Woo's familiar themes of brotherhood, betrayal and loyalty also reach their cinematic peak in this movie. The viewer not only wants to see the next pyrotechnic action scene, but is actually concerned with the lives of the characters, an element that is almost always lacking in typical Hollywood fare.
Finally, the gun-battle scenes, when they come, are simply the most spectacular, mind-blowingly violent, yet strangely beautiful, action scenes ever imagined or filmed. And last but not least, is the unbelievably powerful screen presence of Chow Yun-Fat, as always cool incarnate. His effortless lead and the tension created by his playing off of co-star Danny Lee make The Killer as close as I have yet seen to the perfect action movie. I recommend it to any hard-core action fan and also suggest Hard-Boiled, though Woo's American efforts thus far have not been up to his Hong Kong works.
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