Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Source of Woo's The Killer

 Just as John Woo's Bullet in the Head is a very obvious remake of Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (right down to its lighting setups), his The Killer is a less obvious remake of Teruo Ishii's An Outlaw and, of course, Melville's Le Samourai. I'd throw Nicholas Ray's truly amazing crime melodrama  They Live By Night into the fray also.

I've raved about Ishii before on this blog, usually having unreasonable cinematic orgasms about his freak-oriented material such as Horrors of Malformed Men, Love and Crime, and Orgies of Edo. But Ishii also directed thrillers, outrageous erotic comedies, and torture-themed epics.

An Outlaw, with Ken Takakura, is an Ishii thriller. Takakura plays a killer (very well) contracted to take out a scumbag; turns out the scumbag is a good guy. Angered by this betrayal, the killer sets out to expose the maggot-infested filth behind the ruse. Along the way, he becomes attracted to an innocent girl, helps a pretty prostitute with tuberculosis, and finds he shares a common sense of morality with a cop. At one point, he and the cop exchange gunfire with their common enemy.

Sound familiar? It screams familiar.

Yes, it's The Killer without the heavy stylization, but with the doubledecker trams and visually spectacular exploitation of Hong Kong's Victoria Peak. Mr. Woo must have been quite a fan of the film.

Thankfully, Ishii's bizarre trademarks rupture the film's surface now and then like welcome blisters. An old woman's wonderful facial scar (or is it a tattoo?) is a classic touch. Also true to Ishii is a bloody brilliant scene in which our hero saves a woman from vomiting on her own blood by deep kissing her and sucking the blood from her throat. It's super erotic, loving, and grotesque at the same time. I was in heaven!

I've waited eons to see this film and I was not disappointed.

Another triumph from Toei, the people who would one day bring you Battle Royale.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you! Recalled Woo talking about this film in an interview and could never remember the title! Had no idea it was an Ishii film.