Posts Tagged ‘John Woo’
Monday, April 11th, 2022
I’m an idiot so it took me more than a decade to get around to watching REIGN OF ASSASSINS (2010), even though it’s directed by John Woo. Well, sort of – it’s actually directed by Su Chao-pin (SILK ), but Woo was with him the whole time to mentor him, so he got a co-director credit. He says he gave advice, but never imposed his style. And I definitely wouldn’t confuse it for his movies.
It is a pretty enjoyable wuxia movie though, and it stars Michelle Yeoh, so I’m glad I finally got my shit together.
The story concerns various killers fighting over the mummified corpse of “the powerful monk Bodhi” because, according to the narrator of the prologue, “They say that whoever possesses the Bodhi remains will rule the martial arts world.” Through some not-great illustrations and freeze frame/bullet time character introductions we learn that members of “The Dark Stone, a secret guild of the world’s deadliest assassins” killed Minister Zhang Haiduan and stole the remains, but “amidst the chaos an assassin, Shi Yu (apparently called “Drizzle” in some translations), discovers Grandmaster Bodhi’s remains and disappears into the night…” All the other assassins try to kill her to get a reward. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: Barbie Hsu, Chin Shih-chieh, John Woo, Jung Woo-sung, Kelly Lin, Leon Dai, Li Zonghan, Michelle Yeoh, Stephen Tung Wai, Su Chao-pin, tofu, Wang Xueqi, wuxia
Posted in Action, Martial Arts, Reviews | 4 Comments »
Thursday, February 18th, 2021
I can’t explain this, and it’s embarrassing to admit, but somehow I had never seen ONCE A THIEF (1991) until now. How the hell did I not watch the movie that John Woo and Chow Yun Fat did between their two greatest home runs? Especially since I even watched the North American TV pilot he made based on it five years later! I knew this was gonna be more light-hearted and comedic than THE KILLER and HARD BOILED and that I probly wouldn’t like it nearly as much, but come on. Obviously it was something I needed to see. As I should fuckin known, it’s a fun time with some great stunts and action and a type of ludicrousness I enjoy in many Hong Kong films, if not usually Woo’s.
The story is about a trio of thieves, Cherie (Cherie Chung, PEKING OPERA BLUES), Joey and Jim (Chow Yun Fat and Leslie Cheung, reuniting after A BETTER TOMORROW 1 and 2). We meet them as they’re staking out an art museum for a heist, with Joey walking around admiring the art in the suave manner of Chow Yun Fat, Cherie pretending to be an idiot walking her dog through some deliverymen so she can mark the crate that holds the painting they’re planning to steal, and Joey strutting to his motorcycle in a leather jacket and scarf, bragging to a random street artist that he’s a famous thief. Soon they’re performing a really cool FAST AND FURIOUS-esque mobile truck heist that involved climbing on and under the truck, cutting a hole through the bottom, and gliding away with a parachute. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: Bruce Law, Cherie Chung, Chow Yun Fat, Declan Wong, Digital Native Dance, heists, John Woo, Kenneth Tsang, Leslie Cheung, Paul Chu, Philip Kwok
Posted in Action, Comedy/Laffs, Reviews | 29 Comments »
Thursday, March 15th, 2018
“Very impressive. Though perhaps a bit excessive.”
–a quote from John Woo’s MANHUNT that I do not believe applies to the movie itself because the concept of excess does not exist in the Woo Zone
Welcome back to the Woo Zone, a dimension of violence and poetry, of bonding between enemies, of glorious slow motion badassness and tragic desecration of symbols of peace and redemption. When we’re not in the Zone, many of us have resigned ourselves to a world where John Woo is in the past, a face on Action Movie Mount Rushmore, but not a currently active artist. If that’s you, I am honored to bring you word of MANHUNT, Woo’s highly enjoyable new movie which has just been undeservedly sentenced to a Netflix dump in May. I saw it by buying a legitimate region A, English subtitled blu-ray from Yesasia.
The hype around this has been that it could be a return-to-form for the maestro, at last returning to contemporary-Hong-Kong-crime-action-male-bonding-with-doves after a detour into Hollywood studio movies (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2, PAYCHECK) and then massive Chinese historical action (RED CLIFF). And that’s pretty much true. There are “good guys” and “bad guys” who gain respect for each other. There are a whole bunch of thrilling action sequences and guns used with artistic license. And I will definitely be telling you some things about the doves. There are some topnotch doves in this one. There’s also some dancing. Because Woo was once a dance instructor.
But Woo – despite throwing in a line of dialogue referencing the title of his breakthrough movie – doesn’t seem primarily interested in making a throwback to his own classics like THE KILLER and HARD BOILED. This is kind of his tribute to Japanese cinema. He made it to show his respect for recently deceased favorite actor Ken Takakura, who inspired Chow Yun-Fat’s style in A BETTER TOMORROW. It’s based on a book by Juko Nishimura that was made into a 1976 movie starring Takakura (not available on U.S. video – whatchya gonna do about that, Netflix?). Though some of the stars are Chinese it takes place in (and was filmed in) Osaka, Japan. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: John Woo, Kuniharu Tokunaga, Masaharu Fukuyama, Sakuraba Nanami, Tao Okamoto, Zhang Hanyu
Posted in Action, Reviews | 36 Comments »
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016
As a guy specializing in writing about action movies, sometimes I worry I’m documenting an ancient art form. I romanticize a time when action movies were a rite of passage, a father-son bonding tradition and a major passion for many young people, especially males, but it seems like the youth of today aren’t necessarily interested in this shit. And if they don’t grow up on it then they’re never gonna have that moment when they get a little older and become aware of the other powerful strains of it from around the world.
That makes me sad because whatever they’re watching instead cannot possibly match the rush of joy I got when I saw my first John Woo movie – which was THE KILLER – or each time I revisit his classics now. At the time there was nothing else like it. Somehow that seems even more true today.
The things that are greatest about THE KILLER might be the things that would seem silliest to younger people: the unabashed style and the the unbridled, unironic emotion. I remember people who came up a few years after the era when Hong Kong action cinema was the coolest thing going – people who are old and decrepit now – who would make jokes about John Woo’s doves. “Ha ha, two pistols, and some doves, am I right? Ha ha, I know about a trademark, I have defeated him.”
Well, THE KILLER is gonna be way too much for anybody like that. And maybe I gotta face that they just don’t deserve THE KILLER. The cards are laid on the table in the opening, when Chow Yun-Fat as Ah Jong (or “Jeff Chow,” according to the credits) meets with his Triad manager Fung Sei (Paul Chu Kong) in an empty church at night. That happens in all action movies, but this church is lit with what must be a thousand candles, and there are doves and pigeons flying around, landing on the cross. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: Ching Siu-Tung, Chow Yun Fat, Danny Lee, Hong Kong action, Hong Kong Film Awards, John Woo, Paul Chu Kong, Sally Yeh, Tsui Hark
Posted in Action, Reviews | 58 Comments »
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016
WINDTALKERS is an American John Woo picture that I kinda hated at the time. I can prove it: here’s my review. But I watched it again and although I don’t really disagree with anything I said in that review, now I think it’s okay. Maybe this is because I watched the director’s cut, which is longer and more violent, like a real John Woo movie. Maybe it’s because I came to it with different hopes and expectations, having already not liked it. Or maybe it’s because I’ve grown and changed as a person and movie watcher since the last time. I suspect it’s a combination of all three.
This is Woo’s WWII movie, which makes sense because it’s about male bonding through violence, but also the evil of endless violence, and also a pretty invisible minority (the Navajo) reaching across cultural lines to achieve a common goal, much like Woo making movies in Hollywood. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: Adam Beach, Christian Slater, Francis O'Connor, John Woo, Mark Ruffalo, Martin Henderson, Native American, Navajo, Nicolas Cage, Noah Emmerich, Peter Stormare, Roger Willie, WWII
Posted in Drama, Reviews, War | 24 Comments »
Monday, May 2nd, 2016
“Okay, I understand that, but Jack you need to realize that your sunglasses are the only protection you have from all the white out there.”
It wasn’t part of the original plan, but as I was re-watching the American John Woo movies I realized I had to revisit this 1998 USA Networks TV movie (and unfulfilled backdoor pilot), even though I did an okay job reviewing it long ago. I’ve recently had good luck recommending it to a couple people who never heard of it, but I hadn’t seen it myself in 11 years. Fortunately this thing (shot right after FACE/OFF) holds up as an absurd and entertaining Dolph Lundgren vehicle that transcends its cheapo format.
Dolph plays Jack Devlin, a world class bodyguard who seems to work out of Reno. In the opening he agrees to a favor for an old friend who owns a casino and needs him to protect his little girl Casey (Padraigin Murphy) from the mob. She calls him “Uncle Jack,” which I took literally this time, but my research tells me that they’re not actually related.
It goes down kind like in TAKEN, where the kids get to Europe and are immediately kidnapped. Here gunmen arrive about 30 seconds after Jack walks into the house with Casey. He’s checking the rooms upstairs when they come in. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: Dolph Lundgren, Fred Williamson, John Woo, TV movies
Posted in Action, Reviews | 35 Comments »
Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
BROKEN ARROW is John Woo’s second American movie, and maybe his most generic. Christian Slater (HE WAS A QUIET MAN) stars as Air Force Captain Riley Hale, who’s sent on a test flight with his browbeating mentor and pal Major Vic Deakins (John Travolta, CHAINS OF GOLD) that goes awry. Their experimental bomber is carrying two nuclear warheads to find out if they can do it without being detected via radiation. The trouble is, some low rent DIE HARD sequel type villains are waiting out in the desert for Deakins to intentionally crash the plane so they can steal the missiles and make the government pay a ransom to get them back. God damn dirty bombnappers.
Hale survives the crash and encounters park ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis) and Deakins has devised various ways to slow down anybody else coming in to help, so they gotta John McClane and Zeus Carver it out. Slater and Mathis had already starred in PUMP UP THE VOLUME together. Later Mathis would be in another movie that Travolta was in, THE PUNISHER. They’re all fairly likable, but their characters are bland and lifeless compared to a Chance Boudreaux or a Castor Troy. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: Christian Slater, Delroy Lindo, Frank Whaley, Graham Yost, Hans Zimmer, Howie Long, John Travolta, John Woo, Samantha Mathis
Posted in Action, Reviews | 29 Comments »
Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
There was a time, I must admit, when I didn’t properly appreciate HARD TARGET. I had already been intoxicated by the unadulterated John Woo of THE KILLER, BULLET IN THE HEAD and HARD BOILED (in that order, I believe) so when I watched his 1993 Hollywood debut I could only see the compromises. American Woo was less violent, less stylish, less emotional and built around the stiff toughness of Van Damme instead of the smooth charisma of Chow Yun Fat.
But with the passage of time comes wisdom and context. From the perspective of today we can see that HARD TARGET stepped deeper into the Woo Zone than any of his subsequent American films save for FACE/OFF. More importantly, it’s clearly a masterpiece among Van Damme vehicles, themselves an enjoyable body of work that can benefit from some Woo. A pessimist sees HARD TARGET as Woo watered down with Van Damme. But I’m an optimist now so I know it’s a refreshing glass of Van Damme spiked with a shot of Woo tequila. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: Arnold Vosloo, Bob Murawski, Chuck Pfarrer, JCVD, John Woo, Kasi Lemmons, Lance Henriksen, Wilford Brimley, Yancy Butler
Posted in Action, Martial Arts, Reviews | 131 Comments »
Wednesday, September 9th, 2015
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 was made at a time when the world just wasn’t ready for this particular MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2. There needed to be more of a cooling off period after the first one. We needed some time to learn that MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequels weren’t gonna be the elegant balance of smart-people thriller and blockbuster spectacle that Brian DePalma introduced in the first one, and also that John Woo was not gonna ever seem like the exact same filmatist who made THE KILLER, or HARD BOILED, or even FACE/OFF, again. Returning to it now it’s even more evident that it’s best appreciated by watching it like we watch other post-Hong-Kong Woo pictures like HARD TARGET, or his TV ones like BLACKJACK or the Once a Thief series. You just try to enjoy it as some Hollywood bullshit that he tried to add some of his particular style to. Here he treats it as an expensive studio movie love story set against a rogue agent trying to get rich off of a man-made disease and its cure.
Tom Cruise (JACK REACHER) returns as Ethan Hunt, who has graduated from IMF support man to lone wolf and is now so awesome that he spends his vacation rock climbing out in the middle of nowhere with no equipment. He doesn’t have his phone on him (it was 2000) so the agency has to send a helicopter to fire a rocket at him containing douchey sunglasses that give him his mission briefing. This is a good idea because the ol’ “this message will self destruct” means he throws a pair of sunglasses at the camera and they explode into the title, and everybody wants to see that. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: Anthony Hopkins, Dougray Scott, Hans Zimmer, John Woo, spy, Thandie Newton, Tom Cruise
Posted in Action, Reviews | 58 Comments »
Sunday, February 24th, 2013
Remember when John Woo did a science fictional movie a while back that everybody said was shitty? This was after we’d all kind of given up on him, so I never saw it. Until now.
Ben Affleck, the director of ARGO, stars as Michael Jennings, an amoral engineering genius of a futurist Seattle, some time after the near-future one in STEALTH. (In the future the borders of Seattle will be stretched so far that they will include Vancouver, BC, which is all we see in this movie other than one helicopter shot over Seattle Center). His introduction is funny because he gets to do a John Woo slo-mo strut toward the camera wearing shades (it’s important to the plot that he’s finicky about sunglasses) and, uh, holding a computer monitor under his arm.
(read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: Aaron Eckhart, Ben Affleck, Ivana Milicevic, Joe Morton, John Woo, Michael C. Hall, Paul Giamatti, Philip K. Dick, Uma Thurman
Posted in Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit | 30 Comments »