A Better Tomorrow

Chow Yun-fat lights a cigarette with counterfeit money

John Woo’s woo-hoo moment came in 1986 with the release of A Better Tomorrow, the crime drama that revived his career, created the “heroic bloodshed” sub-genre and, ultimately, influenced the way action movies the world over would look. It’s a simple story, of two brothers on either side of the legal divide. Leslie Cheung plays younger brother, Kit, a cop, while Ti Lung plays Ho, the older sibling who works, unbeknown to Kit, for a gangster. Woo and his co-writers, Chan Hing-Kai and Leung Suk-wah, are much more interested in the morally compromised Ho than the slightly peevish and almost dangerously vanilla Kit. What energy they have left they lavish on Ho’s sidekick, … Read more

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

He (Chow Yun-Fat) loves her (Michelle Yeoh); she loves him, but they cannot be together until the fabled jade sword has been returned to its rightful owner. This they seek to do, hindered by an assassin and a mystery figure whose martial arts abilities rival their own. All that plot business is entirely secondary to the working of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon though. It has just enough connective tissue to lead from one breathtaking display of martial arts magic to the next. It was the film of 2000, taking the most autistically male of movie genres, the martial arts epic, and broadening its appeal by adding a balletic twist. By a similar sleight … Read more