A Better Tomorrow (Ying huang boon sik)

John Woo, I’m figuring out, is the manliest manly-man director out there. His films are loaded with tough guys, who fight firing pistols in both hands, and engage in ├╝ber-male-bonding the rest of the time. But our heroes are always tortured, either over a woman, or their brothers, or fathers, or best friends, or all of the above.

Genre(s): Action, Crime, Drama

Director: John Woo

Actors: Lung Ti, Leslie Cheung, Yun-Fat Chow

Year: 1986

MPAA Rating: R

Country: Hong Kong

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A Better Tomorrow was the movie that originally caught everyone’s attention with the distinct John Woo-style. His formula, which continues in his later movies like The Killer and Hard Boiled, first were apparent in A Better Tomorrow. And since I’ve seen too many of his films too close together, I’m starting to realize that they are blurring together into one huge shoot-em-up, with Chow Yun-Fat in the middle of all of it.

Ho (Lung Ti) is an ex-underworld gangster who got caught, is just getting out of prison, and now wants to live a good life away from crime. His best friend Mark (the always cool Chow Yun-Fat), was maimed in a revenge gunfight when Ho was sent to prison. Ho’s brother Kit (Leslie Cheung) has since become a cop, and holds great bitterness against Ho, because their father was killed in underworld crossfire, and Kit’s relation to a convict is preventing him from getting promoted in the police force. Oh, and there is one woman in the movie (Emily Chu), who plays Kit’s long-suffering girlfriend, who of course just wants all the boys to get along.

There is lots of yelling. There are lots of sweaty furrowed brows. There is lots and lots of gunfire. There is lots of anguish. And of course a major character pretty much gets his head blown off at the end. A Better Tomorrow is pretty good as far as cop/gangster movies go, but a lot of the time, I was a bit confused as to who was good, who was bad, and what they were all so pissed off about. It’s not a bad film for the genre at all, but I can say that John Woo’s style did evolve for the better. Rent his later movies.

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