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The Films of John Woo

The Young Dragons

The Dragon Tamers

Princess Chang Ping

The Hand of Death

Money Crazy

Follow the Star

Last Hurrah for Chivalry

Qian zuo guai

To Hell with the Devil

Laughing Times

Plain Jane to the Rescue

The Time You Need a Friend

Run Tiger, Run

Heroes Shed No Tears

A Better Tomorrow

A Better Tomorrow II

The Killer

Bullet in the Head

Once a Thief

Hard-Boiled (March 29/11)

A striking yet overlong actioner, Hard-Boiled follows grizzled police officer Tequila Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat) as he reluctantly agrees to team up with an unstable undercover cop (Tony Leung's Tony) to take down a vicious crime lord (Anthony Wong's Johnny Wong). Filmmaker John Woo opens Hard-Boiled with a gripping and thoroughly exciting shootout that proves instrumental at instantly capturing the viewer's interest, and there's little doubt that one is subsequently forced to wonder if the movie has peaked at the 10-minute mark. It's just as clear, however, that the film does suffer from a rather standard (yet surprisingly convoluted) cops-and-robbers storyline that's been peppered with a variety of conventional elements (ie Tequila is chewed out by a furious superior), with the familiar atmosphere exacerbated by the pronounced lack of character development among the movie's myriad of periphery figures. (This proves to be especially problematic in the case of central villain Johnny Wong, as the character never entirely becomes the fearsome, odious presence that one imagines he's meant to.) Woo compensates for the less-than-engrossing narrative by throwing in one increasingly over-the-top action sequence after another, with the film eventually arriving at an almost insanely violent climax in which Tequila and Tony are forced to battle dozens of armed thugs within the confines of a crowded hospital. It's a captivating stretch that perhaps goes on just a little bit too long - ie after a certain point, the relentless gunfire becomes mind-numbing - but Hard-Boiled is ultimately, for the most part, a picture-perfect example of what the ideal action flick should look like.

out of

Hard Target

Broken Arrow

Once a Thief



Mission: Impossible II

Windtalkers (June 9/02)

Though it never really breaks any new ground in terms of its plot or characters, Windtalkers - which follows two WWII-era soldiers (Nicholas Cage's Joe and Adam Beach's Ben) as they're forced to worked together - stands out as one of the better war flicks to hit theaters in a good long while due mostly to creative direction and stellar acting. What really makes the film worth checking out (in a well-equipped theater, preferably) are the spectacular action sequences. Woo has never been known as a subtle director and his skills are put to good use here. Though his signature "doves-flying-in-slow-motion" shot is nowhere to be found, the swooping camerawork that's made him famous works especially well here. Let's face it, with the extreme proliferation of war movies, it takes a lot to create one that stands out (just ask Mel Gibson). And Woo's done it, by taking those cliches and using them to his advantage. Sure, some of the characters in Windtalkers seem awfully familiar, but when the story is this exciting and moves this quickly, that's pretty much inevitable. The only way out of that is to make a movie like Black Hawk Down, which - though certainly unique and harrowing - contained characters that were virtually indistinguishable from one another. And as exciting as much of Windtalkers is, all of that would mean nothing without solid acting and characters worth rooting for. Cage, a thoroughly underappreciated actor, is very good as the bitter and grizzled veteran who reluctantly accepts the undesirable mission. But it's Beach who emerges as the standout. Known primarily for appearances in small movies like Smoke Signals, Beach proves that he's got what it takes to share the spotlight with someone as recognizable as Cage. It's their rocky relationship that gives the film its heart. There's also a lot of familiar faces in supporting roles, including Mark Ruffalo and Peter Stormare, but it's Christian Slater as a soldier with the same assignment as Cage that winds up the surprise of the movie. Slater, who's been keeping an unusually low profile as of late, demonstrates why he used to be such a big box office draw. The only fault of Windtalkers comes in the use of some really shoddy-looking stock footage, appearing in the form of guns atop a naval ship. Those guns were not exactly seamlessly integrated into the rest of the film, leading me to wonder why Woo would skimp on such a pivotal point. Regardless, Windtalkers is one of the most exciting (not to mention violent) war movies to emerge in quite some time. This is the sort of movie that screams big screen treatment. Don't miss it.

out of


Red Cliff

© David Nusair