The Killer

It’s hard to believe that the guy every 90’s film student was obsessed over- John Woo- is fading into obscurity, but several of his most famous Hong Kong action flicks are out of streaming commission. Not the least of these is his Swan Song, The Killer, which probably still holds the record for most bullets shot in a single movie.

Like Sam Pekinpah, Woo weaves poetry out of violence, straddling the line between over-the-top cartoon action and a sublime choreography of violence. Chow-Yun Fat is Woo’s muse, straddling that Han Solo line between good-hearted and badass… though in this film, he’s matched by Danny Lee, his gun-touting nemesis. They trade barbs and Disney nicknames between gunshots, and, yes- there’s a girl. Blind, because why not?

At its heart, The Killer is a buddy movie, but be warned: if you’re not up for it, its gunplay will probably wear you out. It’s a lot, but that’s what makes this such a timeless classic. While it’s tempting to blame John Woo for the excesses of Tarantino (and, worse, all the shoddy filmmakers who copied him with forgettable, pseudo-hip movies for the next decade or two) you can’t really blame Woo. Instead, accept the consequences of his irresistibly boyish approach to gangsters, and let the bullets fly.

We’re providing the “Long” version of this film, running at 124 minutes. Criterion released a 111 minute version once, but this is Woo’s original Taiwanese cut.

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