Doves And Bullets: The 5 Best John Woo Movies
Elevating the normal gun versus gun battles to the level of art comes the best John Woo movies. With choreography that rivals the best of the martial arts film genre, this director enhanced the fear and danger of the bullet by accentuating the individual flairs of his actors. Dive for cover but keep your eyes open because you don't want to miss a single second of the action.
"Red Cliff". This John Woo film makes the word "expansive" feel beyond inadequate. The scenery catches your breath as the battles take that same breath away and you find yourself swept up in the call of war. With a combination of dynamic action, intrigue and strategic maneuvering, the story doesn't progress so much as unfold before you. If you've seen the long form version, which adds a little more than two hours to the film, then you get an even better grasp at how well Woo helms this film as the pacing is done with a master's touch, never slowing enough for you to consider focusing upon something else.
"The Killer". Chow Yun-Fat's character decides to do one last assassination in order to fund a surgery for a woman he collaterally damaged during a hit and everything ends happily like a fairy tale. Or you could realize this is one of the best John Woo films and clearly it doesn't end happily but tragically. "The Killer" takes the bloodiness of gunplay, mixes it with the incredible awareness of Yun-Fat's spatial awareness and produces battles that are unique ballets of violence with every gunshot.
"A Better Tomorrow". Friendship can cost you an arm and a leg or even a kneecap. In "A Better Tomorrow", John Woo crafts an excellent movie about the power of friendship and betrayal as the Judases run wild and the bullets fly. The juxtaposition within the family of Ho as the criminal and his brother Kit as the wannabe policeman adds severe emotional content to the anger that arises after their father's death at the hands of one of Ho's compatriots and gives the film a human depth that your average gunfighter movie does not provide.
"Hard Boiled". This time Chow takes on the other side of the law though he doesn't leave behind his characteristic flairs and flourishes. As a cop driven by revenge, Chow is an authority figure that becomes anti-authority while retaining his charm and joie de vivre. As Tequila, Chow has a commanding presence that never once feels too big for the room but just the right size to demand attention. "Hard Boiled" is the prefect bookend for the tremendous John Woo Hong Kong films. Any time Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung are together in a film you need to make sure you've seen it.
"Face/Off". Possibly the funniest film by John Woo ever made. The excellent action sequences that have become a trademark of Woo's are there but this time the dance of death is between Cage and Travolta in who can act more strangely and woodenly. Lines get delivered like babies eating Cheerios: in short bursts of slow drool. The payoff or pay/off is when they switch places and it becomes a race to the finish line for who can act the goofiest consistently. You'll have to decide who wins that battle but the laughs, though unintentional, truly make "Face/Off" worth checking out.