20 June 2004 | Runinrider
Woo's Best; An Amalgamation of Drama and Action
John Woo's "The Killer" shows a master at the height of his powers. Woo, today working in the United States, gained fame in Hong Kong through the two "Better Tomorrow" films. He became popular and used his success to go to greater things. In fact, much of Woo's HK work is similar, including the work he did in the early 90's like "Bullet in the Head" and "Hard Boiled". But "The Killer" shows John Woo as a perfectionist, the top director of action films who can perfectly blend in over-the-top violence with emotional drama.
"The Killer" follows John (Jeff in other versions of the film), who's played to utter perfection by Chow Yun Fat. John is a hit-man planning retirement. On one job, however, he accidentally shoots a singer (Jenny) near her eyes. She survives, but her vision is blurry. John saves her from a gang of rapist thieves, and the two ultimately fall in love with each other, despite Jenny never having seen John's face. On John's case, however, is Inspector Li, hard at work, who is intent on always getting his man. Much of the movie involves John and the results of his final job which ultimately pits him up against the entire mob, who want him dead for overexposing his identity. And the rest of the film follows John catering to Jenny's needs and helping her at every moment, all the while evading Li, who's getting closer and closer to stopping him.
To make the movie the memorable film that it is, Woo perfectly orchestrates some of the best shoot-outs ever seen on film. Much of what Woo did here, he was never able to follow up. "Hard Boiled" was interesting, but its final shoot-out, over 20 minutes in length, just couldn't keep up. It got boring by the end. What Woo does in "The Killer" is give you a sample of his powers and then leave you begging for more. And that what you'll be literally doing: begging for just a glimpse of the next dude victim to Fat's two beautiful handguns.
It's only sad to see that, not so much Woo doesn't do these films anymore, but that Woo rarely does good films now.(Period) He's too busy, working on ego with top stars and killer budgets. His two films that came as far as making an impact with me from his U.S. catalog will probably include "Broken Arrow" and "Face/Off", both primarily due to just how much I like Travolta (though the former was also an early film of mine that I really remember liking, since it was different from all the Disney and kid stuff I was used to). But Woo, intent on fulfilling his dreams of making a musical and captivating audiences with his powerful style, can just show the people a screening of this film. It's quoted as being "Violence as poetry", and that's exactly what it is. With the beautiful music adding feeling and depth to the characters and the great writing and direction, this is easily Woo's tour-de-force.