Viewed – March 01 2007 DVD
I have seen this famed Hong Kong gun battle extravaganza more times than is probably healthy. I have owned various versions on DVD, watched it on TV and VHS, and probably know it inside out. Having watched with increasing dismay John Woo’s Hollywood output slowly descend into nothingness, save for his debut, the underrated Hard Target (still Jean Claude Vann Damme’s finest showing) and the brilliant Face / Off. Not much however can touch this 1992 thriller that showcases the once highly regarded God Of Action at the top of his game.
Chow Yun Fat, always a regular for Woo when he worked in Hong Kong, is the charismatic tough cop that can’t be stopped, and is admirably supported by a brilliantly complex Tony Leung (more recently known for the award winning In The Mood For Love, and the acclaimed thriller Infernal Affairs) as an undercover cop posing as a triad hit man. Together they face a ruthless gang boss who will stop at nothing to get what he wants (an always watchable Anthony Wong). Yet it’s not really the story or the characters we’re here for –it’s the action, and Woo delivers in this final film before making the leap to the states. What we get are several big and loud gun-crazy shoot outs, culminating in what is possibly the finest and most perfectly realised gun fight in cinema history, a 30 minute shoot out through a hospital. Woo uses all his skill, with frequent use of slow motion, speeded up frames and style – bags of style to make you almost overwhelmed. This is violent, brash and stunning – and you won’t forget it in a long while. Of course the story is basic filler to piece together the action, and lacks much of the emotional complexity of that other great Woo flick The Killer – but if its action you want, you have it, and you wont be disappointed.
Having viewed previous releases, this is easily the best as far as picture and sound go, and you get a choice between the dubbed version (that is done rather well, I might add) and subtitled (also very well done), meaning all tastes are catered for. Yet still I feel we haven’t been treated to the ‘definitive’ release, with hardly any extras and no commentary. Here’s wishing for a deluxe 2 disk set in the future!!
Verdict: 4 /5