Friday, May 11, 2012

#634. The Killer (1989)

Directed By: John Woo

Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh

Tag line: "The Biggest Body Count in History"

Trivia:  This film did not do well in Hong Kong because audiences didn't like the allusions to the Tienanmen Square massacre

Beneath all the carnage, John Woo’s The Killer is a tale of remorse, the story of a man who struggles to correct the tragic consequences of his actions.

Ah Jong (Chow Yun-Fat) is a hit man who plans to retire after one last job. But when his final assignment leads to a shootout at a crowded nightclub, he inadvertently injures a beautiful singer named Jennie (Sally Yeh), whose eyes are damaged so badly that she’s nearly blinded. Unable to escape the guilt of what he’s done, Ah Jong goes back to work to raise money for an operation that will save Jennie's eyesight. He completes this next job with his usual ease, but the man who hired him doesn’t want to pay, and sends some of his own men to take Ah Jong out. With the mob closing in, and a determined police Lieutenant (Danny Lee) hot on his trail, Ah Jong is forced to lay low. But he knows the clock is ticking, and if the operation isn't performed soon, Jennie will be blinded for life.

There's violence aplenty throughout The Killer, and a good many people, including some innocent bystanders, end up drenched in blood. Director Woo shows time and again why he's a master at staging action scenes, giving us plenty of slow-motion, freeze frames, and thousands upon thousands of bullets flying in every direction. There's also an interesting relationship that develops between Ah Jong and Danny Lee's cop, who respects and admires Ah Jong for his willingness to help Jennie. Lee's character, whose name is Lu Ying, becomes obsessed with Ah Jong's act of kindness, and though he's bound and determined to bring him to justice, Lu Ying feels a stronger bond with this hit man than he does his comrades on the force.

The Killer is also a tale of redemption, of one man's attempt to rise above his profession. Though a skilled assassin, Ah Jong is not a cold-blooded killer, and during one particular shoot-out, when he realizes a young girl has been caught in the crossfire, Ah Jong not only rescues the girl, but drives her to a hospital emergency room, saving her life. Some might argue such a scene is an unnecessary diversion in an action film, a bit of melodrama tossed in where none was needed. Yet despite all the high-octane thrills he packs into The Killer, there's not a moment in the film where John Woo cares more about the gunplay then he does his main character, the man pulling the trigger.


Anonymous said...

Love this film! One of my favorite Woo pictures. Just visually stunning.You are correct about Woo staging action scenes. He's brilliant at it. Good write up!

Unknown said...

This film and Hard Boiled changed the way that I look at action movies. The choreography of the gun play is breathtaking. Chow Yuen-Fat's performance set the standard for the "Heroic Bloodshed". Only surpassing himself in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. This film is balletic (yes I said it...sorry), brutal and at times beautiful.

James Robert Smith said...

Yet another film that I should have seen, but have not. I was going to get the Criterion disk once upon a time but it went OP and the price went into the stratosphere.