Once upon a time there was a man. They called him Woo, John Woo. This man is considered to be a legend and pioneer. They even call him “Mr. action”. But why? For the answer to that question we need to go way, way back.
Born 1946 in Kanton, Mr. Woo was raised in the slums of the ghetto with its violent gangs and everyday shootings. During the rise of communism, his family had to flee to Hong Kong to seek refuge. At that particular moment it all began…
After a few debacles in the movie industry, Mr. Woo experienced a professional burnout. Several of his films were commercial disappointments. In response, he took up residence in Taiwan. It was during this period of self-imposed exile that director/producer Tsui Hark provided the funding for Woo to film a longtime pet project called ‘A Better Tomorrow‘ (1986 ).
And at that time the real fun began. The first in a line of ultra violent movies came and conquered the world of Hong Kong cinema. ‘A Better Tomorrow’ is the Godfather meets Die hard. All the main characters are cool dudes wearing sunglasses, trench coats and – of course – a lot of guns. The follow up, ‘A Better Tomorrow 2’, is famous to the present day for a scene where the mafia is extorting a restaurant owner. The mafia members insult the owner’s food and then the owner responds with the the following quote:
“You don’t like my rice? What’s wrong with it? It’s beautiful to me, but to you, rice is nothing… to us, it’s just like my father and mother. Don’t fuck with my family. If you have any dignity, apologize to the rice RIGHT NOW!”
After those two movies he brought us ‘the Killer’. A lot of people say this is the most ultimate action movie of all time. I disagree, that title goes to my personal favourite, ‘Hard Boiled’. The Killer’s tagline says “The Biggest Body Count in History”. We have to give that to Hard Boiled because The Killer has a body count of 120, and John Woo captured 307 people getting shot to pieces in Hard Boiled. This movie is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish; people are getting shot, stabbed, blown up and beaten to death in style. There is a scene in which Tequila (the main character, portrayed by Chow Yun Fat) has just F**cked up a complete restaurant and in doing so killed about 30 people. His chief comes up to him and says “Give a guy a gun, he thinks he’s Superman. Give him two and he thinks he’s God”, and Tequila answers “You’re full of shit, you know that? There is a toilet over there”. Its a classic.
John Woo has also created an own subgenre, called Heroic Bloodshed. I think I don’t need to explain that, but for those who don’t know what it means, here goes.
Heroic bloodshed movies are violent gangster thrillers, typically focusing on men bound by honor and loyalty, at odds with contemporary values of impermanence and expediency. The protagonists of these films, therefore, may be said to present a common lineage with the Chinese literary tradition of loyalty among generals depicted in classics such as “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”.
So in the future when you are watching TV, and a movie comes across with the following elements:
v Slow motion action scenes
v A lot of people dying (no less then at least one hundred)
v Chow yun Fat (coolest actor on the planet)
v About a thousand bullets
Then turn the volume up, hide the remote from your wife and dog, and get ready for the ride of your life. Because you are watching a John-Muthafucking-Woo movie.
I will call him and will remember him by the name I gave him: the ‘God of Guns’. Let’s end this sweet little story by saying “When the shit hits the fan, you better not turn it on.”
This is a definite “Jean Claude van DAMN! It’s good”.