This 1989 rouser is apocalyptic pulp--the bloodiest, showiest, most shamelessly sentimental specimen of Hong Kong's gangster melodramas. A torch singer named Jennie (Sally Yeh) is accidentally blinded during a slaying in a... more » night club, and Chow Yun-fat's sad-eyed Jeff, a self-lacerating assassin, drags himself out of retirement to take on one last job--rubbing out a major mobster for major bucks--so he can pay for the singer's cornea transplant operation. But Jeff pauses to ferry a wounded child to the hospital during this final outing, and because of this a cop finally gets a good look at him: "He was seen on the job," snarls a saturnine Mr. Big, "and I want him wasted." Armies of thugs converge on the saintly slayer. Some of writer-director John Woo's flourishes are kitsch classics (doves flying upward in a candlelit church), while the action sequences are rapturous. "Life's cheap," a character opines. "It only takes one bullet," but in this case it actually takes about a dozen spewing bullet hits to kill anyone, as soulful triads in mirror shades and duster overcoats blaze away with high-tech weaponry. (A favorite trick involves grasping an enemy by the lapels, pulling him into a waltz embrace, and pumping several slugs into his duodenum.) Danny Lee, Chow's costar in City on Fire, is the intense, young officer who fixates on the killer's contradictory personality. --David Chute« less
"Warning, this is a seriously BUTCHERED version of the film. Disny, in all of it's wisdom, has decided to cut over 6 minutes of the film. Do yourself a favor and get ahold of the fox lorber/winstar release, orif you've got the cash, pick up the criterion edition."
CRITERION COLLECTION DVDs BOOTLEGS ALERT!
Bootlegs Hunter | 07/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
Due to the great success of The Criterion Collection some of the DVDs have been copied and are being produced illegally, especially be aware of fake OUT-OF-PRINT titles. Must know "Red Flags":
1. If the price is drastically LOW. Be cautious if the DVD price is significantly LOWER THAN the MSRP (retail price). 2. If an out-of-print DVD has a low "Buy It Now" price. Out-of-print DVDs are no longer being produced and TEND TO BE WORTH MORE THAN THOSE STILL IN CIRCULATION. 3. When purchasing from Asia, look to see if the DVD cover has any Asian characters on it. There have been multiple bootlegs made with this slight difference on the DVD cover. Oftentimes, bootlegs will be advertised as "official Asian Criterion DVDs". This is NOT TO BE TRUSTED! Criterion Collection has never released alternate Asian Editions of any of their DVDs and they have no plans to do so! 4. Kindly ask Seller(s) for photos of the discs, cover arts, inserts, booklets including UPC number, ISBN number, Cat.No. 5. Contact Criterion Collection via their website to verify all information seller(s) have provided before making your final decision to purchase the item you are interested in! 6. After all, the seller(s) might admit that it is a bootleg or copy. Sadly, some sellers do try and make money off of these."
Wheelchair Assassin | The Great Concavity | 05/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Filled with grit, emotion, and psychological depth, not to mention lots and lots of blood, "The Killer" is the kind of passion play that is seen all too rarely in any style of film, let alone the action genre. In fact, John Woo's Hong Kong shoot-'em-up masterpiece resembles nothing so much as Shakespeare with thousands of bullets flying around. In this case the role of the tragic hero is assumed by Jeffrey, played in career-defining fashion by Chow Yun-Fat. Jeffrey is an amiable enough sort, who also just happens to be a fearless, unstoppable assassin with a steely glare and a deadly accurate shot. But when he accidentally blinds a lovely torch singer named Jenny while mowing down about a dozen criminals in a crowded bar, Jeffrey finds some new meaning in his life by assuming responsibility for the woman, even going so far as to try to get her a vision-restoring cornea transplant. However, everything is far from hunky-dory for Jeffrey and his ward: after committing one last job to get the money for Jenny's operation, Jeffrey finds himself pursued by a small army of thugs as well as Chang and Li, two relentless detectives. Oh, and his best friend and associate Sidney has (temporarily) betrayed him. With all that's going on, the stage is set for a struggle on an operatic scale, with Chow giving his character just the right mix of warmth and gravity.
As one would expect from a film directed by Woo, with Chow in the starring role, "The Killer" contains more than its fair share of shootouts and chase scenes, all filmed with Woo's signature frenetic visual style. However, it's what happens when the movie slows down that sets it apart from the pack. "The Killer" is as much a drama as it is an action yarn, and it's a mighty good drama at that. There are a bunch of scenes here that got my adrenaline flowing, but even more impressive, it's mixed with the kind of legitimately moving scenes that are almost impossible to find in Hollywood movies. Behind the constant action is an often-moving tale of devotion, honor, redemption, and friendship in the unlikely setting of the criminal underworld. The lines between good and bad, right and wrong, cop and criminal, are all blurred in a haze of moral ambiguity and divided loyalties. While Jeffrey and Sidney attempt to restore trust after Sidney's betrayal, an unlikely bond forms between Jeffrey and Li as the detective and the assassin realize they're not that different after all.
As the story unfolds, building toward the inevitable confrontation, the tension and the emotional stakes only rise along with the body count. Woo manages to elevate the crime drama to poetry, whether during a taut action sequence or a subdued conversation scene. The movie's deservedly legendary finale, involving a crazed gun battle inside a church, is the only appropriate conclusion. The viewer certainly needs some catharsis after such a harrowing journey, and Woo more than delivers the goods. "The Killer" is one of the few movies of its ilk that can legitimately be called art."
Heroic Bloodhshed and Cool Charisma - John Woo`s "The Killer
Andrew MacAskill | Australia (currently living in Japan) | 06/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anybody who enjoys furiously paced action mixed with superb drama and almost balletic violence should see this film. Probably Woo`s finest and most popular "heroic bloodshed" piece, it details the life of a hitman, Chow Yun Fat, and his policeman rival, Danny Lee. Woo tells his tale in typical flamboyant style, blending incredible action sequences with slow motion and stills. At times the beauty of the violence amazed me. As Chow Yun Fat is pursued by both the mob and the police he manages to present a likeable hero in a tragically difficult situation. The fascinating relationship (and obvious similarities) between the two leading men is brilliantly drawn out through the use of many interesting "gaze" shots, long trakes and close ups. As intense drama, friendship and tragedy unfold in the midst of a terrifyingly brutal world the pace of the film is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat right until the magnificent climax. Without spoiling, let me say that the finale is one of the greatest action sequences that I have ever witnessed on celluloid. This film is an absolute masterpiece and one of my all time favourites. As the SBS film reviewer said "For those of you who are about to see this film for the first time, I envy you". Enjoy."
Andrew MacAskill | 05/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As the popularity of Chinese cinema begins to spread in the US, two men must be noted for their contributions - Director John Woo and Actor Chow Yun-Fat. Their names are synonymous with action in Hong Kong cinema. Both have had projects that were successful (Face/Off and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, respectively) and some that were not so (Hard Target). The Killer, however, is the apex of both their works.It is possibly the best movie that very few people know about, and upon seeing it, it has become my mission to ensure that it becomes more widely viewed. John Woo's cinematic stylings and breathtaking action sequences are his trademark, and are often mimicked (but never duplicated) by more accessible works. Those who believe that action began with Desperado, Resevoir Dogs or The Matrix need only look to John Woo to find the obvious inspiration for these works.Of course, as much as a gun is a weapon in action movies, Chow Yun-Fat is John Woo's weapon. Entire tales can be told simply with Yun-Fat's expressions - the ability to "act" without saying a word is sometimes underrated, but I would say that Yun-Fat challenges even DeNiro in his method-acting abilities. His on-screen charisma is electric, and no other actor in Woo's stable has been able to produce the kineticity required of a John Woo hero figure.The two have joined forces for a number of movies, but none better than The Killer. Besides the afforementioned qualities of each individual, The Killer brings with it a story of "Real Men" in a world where honor is a dirty word. The Killer belongs with the great mafia dramas of Hollywood Cinema and with Kurosawa's samurai epics. The Killer is listed in the guidebook, "The Top 100 Movies No One Has Ever Seen." The latter half of that statement needs to be changed."