The Killer (Die xue shuang xiong)

The Killer

Every shot takes a life.

I don’t know if I would go so far as to call John Woo good, but he certainly is interesting. Before his move to Hollywood action flicks, he was a premier director in Hong Kong of, well, of action flicks. While other filmmakers like Jackie Chan were busy with physical stunts, John Woo was all about guns, and bodies flying everywhere, and damn if this film doesn’t have lots of both of those. The Killer is the only film of his to make the list, and while watching it I couldn’t help but cement my opening opinion of his ability and style as a director; it might not be good enough for the word “good”, but it sure is interesting.

Chow Yun-fat stars as Ah Jong, an assassin who, after accidentally injuring a young singer’s eyes while on a job, decides to take one last hit to get the money for the corneal transplant that will enable her to see again. Of course, he is double-crossed on this “one last hit”, and must reluctantly team up with the policeman who is tracking him down to take out the group trying to take him out. The first thing you should know about this film is that it is basically a collection of references to action/crime/hitman films that have come before it. Woo has stated that this film is a tribute to filmmakers Jean-Pierre Melville and Martin Scorsese, but the first influence I noticed in the film was that of Douglas Sirk. The most obvious aspect of this was the score, which was incredibly lovey-dovey right from the get go, but would switch drastically into 80s-style tension music during the action sequences. Unbelievably on-the-nose, but hey; it’s a film from the 80s. Where the film did succeed was, of course, the action sequences themselves, which were utterly bombastic in the amount of bullets fired, the amount of squibs on the bad guys, the complete lack of accuracy in regards to shooting at the good guys, and the ridiculous reserves of ammo the good guys seem to have (except where it matters to the plot). The bodies fly all over the freaking place, as does the blood, but really, if you’re expecting anything different from a John Woo film that is free to be as John-Woo-y as possible… well, then you just don’t know John Woo.

Clichés were abound in this one, which I could not ignore for the life of me, even though I wanted to, so the film did detract from its overall effect because of them. Still, though, this was fairly enjoyable, if only for the blatant reasons the film tries so desperately to use to make itself enjoyable. But, it works, so there’s always that. The melodrama was thick, but thankfully, the action was thicker, so I was able to get through it okay enough. I don’t really know how much of a “must see” this really is; maybe they just wanted a John Woo film on there. But, if you do decide to give it a try, I think you’ll end up all right in the end.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10


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