Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Caught Between A Killer And A Bullet

Between The Killer ('89) and Bullet in the Head ('90), John Woo co-directed (with Wu Ma) Just Heroes, easily his most underrated film.

A bloody, romantic actioner with a dense plot, it was made by a bunch of ex-Shaw luminaries such as David Chiang, Danny Lee, Phillip Ko, Lieh Lo, Ti Lung and Kuan Tai Chen; it was intended as a retirement fund for the great Chang Cheh, mentor to Woo and many others.

Legend has it that the elderly director took the takings and used them to finance another film.

Great directors never retire.

Personally, I think the film is exceptional, and it has one of the equal greatest musical scores ever written for a Hong Kong film; the other is Richard Yuen's score for A Fishy Story, an exquisitely beautiful romance.
The action sequences are of a smaller scale than, say, Hard-Boiled

...or Bullet in the Head (my favorite Woo film)

...but they are beautifully choreographed and unusually brutal.

The film's romantic subplot has a powerful impact on the viewer and is definitely not filler.

The original theatrical print was cut.

A shot of Chiang sliding across a factory floor and shooting a gunman at point blank range in the chest was excised. So were some additional dramatic sequences and a number of gory close-ups of the death of Shing Fui-On.

Happily, these censored sections are re-instated in the stunning French DVD from Christopher Gans' releasing company, HK Video (w**.metrofilms.com).

The film is buried inside the French DVD casing of Woo's Once A Thief (Les Associes); it has no English subtitles.

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