The plan to spend January doing rewatches of old stuff hasn’t really worked out, has it? Other project getting in the way and all that. Still, couldn’t let the month go without this one… alas, my delight at finding it on DVD (I got the recent Dragon Dynasty edition) has been tempered somewhat by the rather mediocre quality of the visuals, interlaced to buggery (apparently a PAL>NTSC conversion to boot) and looking worst of all during the big action scenes (after all these years, Weinstein still fucks up Asian cinema). And the big action really is what this is all about, even if it’s not quite as hyperactive as I recall it being. Indeed, it’s about 15 years now since I first saw (almost to the very day, I think), and what struck me most about it was how, well, “80s” it is. Something about it shouts “1989!” a little more loudly than it did when I first saw it, but then again 1997 was a lot closer to when the film was made than it is to 2012, it wouldn’t have looked so of its time back then perhaps… Still great, of course, still mighty stuff that I’m sure continues to define John Woo; though a comparative flop at home, it exploded him into the attention of western filmgoers and indeed into the Hollywood film industry, where he’s never really succeeded in matching his HK output, probably because for the most part (Face/Off being the notable exception) he hasn’t been able to go over the top as he does here. The gunfire is big, but the emotions are bigger; nobility, honour, all of that stuff, men on either side of the law forming friendship as they both find themselves adrift in a world that no longer respects the old values like they do. (On which note, isn’t it great to watch this knowing there’s not a frame of CGI in it?) I don’t know if I’d still call it the best action movie ever made, I’m no longer keen on such absolute statements, but any competitor would have to go really fucking hard to beat it for the title.
The Killer (1989)