Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Film Review: The Killer (1989)

The Killer (Review)
China/1989
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...it's a must-watch for any movie fan."

After damaging the eyes of a singer during a shootout, assassin Ah Jong (Chow Yun-fat) vows to pay for her surgery with one final job...

The Killer presents the classic hitman dilemma — "I want out, but I need to do this final job." Of course, during this final job, Ah Jong finds himself at odds with his former employer and he doesn't get paid. So, Ah Jong must protect Jenny, the singer he's indebted to, while fighting off his betrayers and a persistent police officer, Detective Li Ying (Danny Lee). While doing so, Ah Jong will test the boundaries of loyalty and true friendship — including a friendship he never thought he'd find. It all leads to an incredible climax and a marvelous ending — it won't please everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Killer is a fantastic action film. The story is fairly familiar for anyone who has watched hitman films, but that's forgivable. For the time of release, this was still fresh. Anyway, the plot also has some appreciated depth. It may not be very subtle in its themes, like the loyalty and friendship, but it works. It helps create characters we care about, and it amplifies the odds during the shootouts — you actually care about the characters and their situations. The narrative had a certain tenderness that I truly appreciated. It can be melodramatic and even a little cheesy at times, but I thought it was cool.

The action is top-notch, as one would expect from early John Woo — even contemporary John Woo, actually. The many shootouts are exhilarating and exciting. Walls and furniture explode into mere particles, characters roll and leap to dodge the barrage of blazing bullets heading their way, and explosions are a dime a dozen. The fluidity in these action sequences is incredible. Bouncing (or shooting) from room-to-room with very little interference looks awesome — to be blunt. The film is simply oozing with style, I loved it. Although the scale and variety was larger in Hard Boiled, these action scenes can stand on their own.

Although melodramatic, the acting was also very strong. Chow Yun-fat, the ageless legend, delivers a wonderful performances as the charismatic action star; he also hits some great emotional notes. Danny Lee offers great support, too. The cinematography and camerawork were great; they're part of the fluidity I was referring to earlier. The music was also fantastic, it matched that cool and moody style perfectly. Unfortunately, the audio hasn't aged too well or it hasn't been restored properly. Actually, the picture in the HD version I watched didn't look so sharp, either. I still loved both aspects considering how well the film is crafted, but The Killer really deserves a better upgrade. Writer and director John Woo creates a dark and gritty action-thriller with tender storytelling and superb action scenes. The story, the action, the style... It all blends together to create a fantastic film thanks to Woo's direction.

Overall, The Killer is a fantastic film. The story is great, the characters and their relationships are strong, and the action sequences are superb. There are a few scenes that standout as "cheesy", but I felt they added to the film's charm. It's also on the melodramatic side, but that didn't really bother me, either. It's really a fantastic action experience. Although I may love Hard Boiled a little more, The Killer is a must-watch for any John Woo or Chow Yun-fat. Really, it's a must-watch for any movie fan.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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