Killer, The (1989)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

[director John Woo]
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Danny Lee Sau-Yin, Parkman Wong Pak-Man

A Better Tomorrow may have made Chow Yun-Fat the biggest star of Hong Kong cinema, but The Killer boasts his most iconic role. The movie is also perhaps John Woo’s most affecting, powerful, emotional dirge on the death of loyalty, honor, love, and friendship in the modern world. Killer Jeff accidentally blinds a nightclub singer (Sally Yeh, in one of her most emotive performances) on one of his hits. Stricken with guilt and a sense of duty towards her, he watches over her and defends her, eventually making his presence known to her and falling in love with her. He tries to arrange one last hit to pay for an eye operation for her, but complications arise when Jeff is betrayed by his boss and his best friend, and fingered by a tough cop (Danny Lee, playing his part with record intensity) who gradually begins to identify with this honorable killer left afloat in a world of corruption. Headily emotional, with a burning visual lyricism (John Woo’s first slow-motion dove-shots, rain-blurred streets with Yeh’s lush cantopop vocals) and blistering violence. The definitive John Woo primer.

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