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Laramie Movie Scope:
John Woo, a director to watch

John Woo takes Hollywood by storm

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 5, 1995 -- A movie I have been hearing about for years recently became available in one of our local video rental places, it is ``The Killer,'' a Hong Kong gangster film directed by John Woo.

I had been hearing about Woo for some time. Woo started making films in the early 1970s. His first film as director was ``Young Dragons'' in 1973. The first film generally available at non-specialty video stores in places like Laramie was ``A Better Tomorrow,'' released in 1986.

I was disappointed by ``A Better Tomorrow.'' It seemed to have all the vices of bad foreign films, overacting, bad dubbing, an incoherent plot. Yet it was this film that got Woo international notice.

When I saw ``The Killer,'' I understood what all the fuss was about. There is a kind of operatic intensity about the film. Although Woo remains in love with blood bags, the high level of violence in the film is so stylish it is almost like ballet.

The bloody shootouts in the film are somewhat reminiscent of stylish, violent westerns like ``The Wild Bunch.'' Like John Ford before him, Woo likes to stick with certain actors. Chow Yun-Fat has starred in most of his films and Tony Leung has appeared in several. Woo's first real Hollywood film was ``Hard Target,'' a 1993 film starring Jean-Claude VanDamme.

The core of ``The Killer'' is a complex relationship between hit man Jeffrey Chow (Yun-Fat) and police Inspector Lee (Danny Lee) and a woman who Chow accidentally blinded named Jenny (Sally Yeh). Chow feels responsible for Jenny and falls in love with her. Meanwhile Lee comes to admire both Chow and Jenny.

This three-way relationship is very well written by Woo and it is what holds the story together. ``A Better Tomorrow,'' on the other hand, tends to fall apart (although it probably makes a lot more sense to those who can understand the Chinese dialogue).

It is said that Woo's films have had an influence on Quentin Tarantino, who directed last year's big hit ``Pulp Fiction.'' It will be interesting to see how Woo's next film, ``Broken Arrow,'' turns out (it is due out this year). It could be, with Hollywood's love affair with action films, that Woo will be a name to watch for in the near future.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1995 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)