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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.07%
Average: 1.79%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 3.57%

2 reviews, 44 user ratings

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Killer, The
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by Slyder

"An action classic that hasn’t aged, and in our times, that’s very rare"
5 stars

When director John Woo broke through with his classic 1986 action film A Better Tomorrow, the action genre took an innovative step forward thanks to Woo’s introduction of the “cool hitman image:” Long trench coat, Ivy-League suit and dark glasses, as well as his impressive slow-mo, two fisted, gun ballet scenes which gave violence a more elegant, lyrical tone. With 1989’s the Killer, Woo perfected his blend of action and violence, and the genre would change forever.

Jeffrey Chow (Chow Yun-Fat) is the ultimate professional hitman whom during job at a Restaurant he accidentally shoots and blinds a singer called Jenny (Sally Yeh) that works there. Repentant of what happened, Jeff takes interest in Jenny’s health and offers himself to one last job in order to get the money for Jenny’s eye surgery, due to the fact that if she doesn’t get it soon, it would be too late. It isn’t until after the job that Jeffrey realizes he’s been betrayed by the same people that hired him, and has to use his lethal skills, his trust in longtime friend Sydney (Chu Kong) and an unusual friendship with rogue cop Lee (Danny Lee) in order to stay alive,

Though armed with several action spectaculars, The Killer is more a study in redemption, human conscience and honor amongst men on both sides of the Law. The plot is pretty much formulaic, but rather than concentrating on a formulaic story, Woo applies another golden rule in screenwriting and shifts the focus towards the characters. He depicts an ordinary hitman not like some crazed wacko with a gun, but a man who lives by a code of honor, a person that has feelings, a person like any other, only that he uses guns professionally for a living. He believes every man he’s killed deserved to die, but he also becomes conscious of the collateral damage he can create due to the brutality of his work. Jenny, besides being Jeff’s soon-to-be love, is his light at the end of the tunnel, as he tries to rid himself from his violent self and desperately obtain redemption. Inspector Lee is Jeff’s counterpart; he and Jeff are the same in many ways, they both use guns, they both believe in justice and both are violent when necessary, with the only difference being that Lee is cop. His desire of upholding the law clashes with Jeff’s sudden willingness of doing good at least once in his life. It is through this moment that Jeff and Lee have to set aside the line between good and bad and work together to stay alive.

The second standout of the film is of course, Woo’s trademark for action. His penchant for two fisted gunplay, slow-motion takes, and rapid editing make for some of the best action scenes ever. Two scenes stand out for me: One where he kills a notorious crime lord with a competition rifle, which marks the killer’s cold-blooded precision, just brings a cold shower in your spine; the other being the shootout in the church, with the whole carnage reaching a metaphorical meaning due to the fact that the bullets and dead bodies symbolize in a lyrical fashion the high price that Jeffrey has to pay for his redemption. Unquestionably a very fine piece of work, in which everything just falls into place, I applaud John Woo whom also wrote the script for producing a very memorable action thriller in a very formulaic action world.

Chow Yun-Fat once again demonstrates why he’s one of the most kick-ass action stars again; with his trademark “hitman look” that has spawned a dozen imitations, he delivers a dead-on performance as Jeffrey. Danny Lee is also very good as Lee as well as Sally Yeh in the role of Jenny. A special mention though is to Chu Kong’s Sydney, as he portrays a beat-up killer, whom has wounds that handed him pretty useless, but accepts his profession with honor even if he’s looked down as a dog.

In the end, in a year of Schwarzennegger, Stallone, Van Damme action mediocrity, this film stands out as one of the highlights of 1989 and also as one of the most important action films ever made, redefining and forever altering our view on a once tired-and-true genre and generating a new yardstick to which later-day action films would be measured. I just hope the bastards that have the distribution rights will release this film again on DVD. RE-RELEASE THE DVD AGAIN YOU CRITERION BASTARDS!!! 5-5

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originally posted: 07/17/04 07:16:44
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User Comments

12/21/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess A must see 5 stars
5/25/07 Sugarfoot Woo was a master of action filmmaking, sadly he hasn't brought any of his mastery to the US 5 stars
4/09/07 VW !!!!!!! 5 stars
9/05/06 William Goss Aw, back when John Woo was all potential instead of punchline. Love that teacup scene. 4 stars
11/25/05 CONSTANTINE AWESOME, One of Woo's and Yun-Fat's best collaborations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/20/05 cooler the greatest action movie,emotional,visceral and thought provoking 5 stars
9/02/05 Tom Burns The action is unbelievable. Very amazing. 5 stars
5/29/05 Jake Great action. Good plot. 5 stars
9/27/04 Archanist_101 'godan' I dont agree with you so shut the FUCK UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/17/04 Herolder One of the best action films ever. 5 stars
7/20/04 godan one of woo's better (older) flicks! 4 stars
7/17/04 legend A must have film for anyone into asian cinema! 5 stars
7/08/04 "Meth Lab" for Dummies. A CULT 'fuckin" CLASSIC! 5 stars
7/06/04 Daveman Stylish without being pretentious, ultraviolent without being sadistic. An action classic. 5 stars
7/01/04 "Meth Lab" for Dummies. Yeah I agree, you're such a hypocite 'dead next door'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/21/04 "Meth Lab" for Dummies. IT'S LIKE "Max Payne" ONLY ON DRUGS! 5 stars
5/09/04 PAYNE Oi, 'dead next door' I think that we at efilmcritic should support Mr. Woo and not crtise!! 5 stars
5/05/04 dead next door i misses the days then woo made brilliant movieslike this one.and not all that hollywood bu 5 stars
4/15/04 Jason Orosco much more than i expected 5 stars
3/26/04 Mars 2071 this was like Max Payne 2, all over again! 5 stars
10/14/03 I Would A gloriously violent, action packed film with surprisingly sympathetic characters. 5 stars
8/19/03 Raf-L best action movie ive ever seen 5 stars
8/14/03 AD AMAZING 5 stars
6/20/03 Sammy Best gunfights ever in any movie in existince 5 stars
6/19/03 Billy Taylor you haven't seen action until you've seen this 5 stars
1/21/03 Andy Bronson (john woo in hk = great) (in hollywood = shit) 5 stars
9/26/02 Clarance I'm a big dumbass who thinks that XXX is the greatest movie of all time. 5 stars
3/22/02 Mr. Hat (I'm Back!) Really badly shot, but really entertaining and violent. 4 stars
3/17/02 Jennifer Bitchslap yo ass back to HK John Woo 5 stars
2/17/02 Clarance goddamn jon woo... stop this shit... you and jacki chan... just stop making movies! 1 stars
12/20/01 LyonHeart44 Woo needs to screen this again and remember that he used to know how it was done. Awesome. 5 stars
11/30/01 Rutt13 Wonderful...First woo I ever saw and a favorite forever 5 stars
6/26/01 Lars Pettersson The best actionfilm ever!!! And that's a fact, jack ! Chow Yun-Fat is awsome !!! 5 stars
3/08/01 Michael Grimm I creamed my pants at the end!!! Woo rocked in Hong Kong, a shame Hollywood fucked him up. 5 stars
3/01/01 Charlie the Film Hog Tarantino is STILL trying to catch up to this. 5 stars
11/27/00 Albert Yu The Best 5 stars
11/04/00 The Smiling Bandit Incredible ....................... 5 stars
9/18/00 Paul Wow does it get any dumber than this? NOPE 1 stars
9/18/00 Ol Dirty Cracker Crazy shit! John Woo's best film yet! 5 stars
7/18/00 The Bomb 69 this and hard boiled are the best action movies ever!!! 5 stars
5/21/00 Cinesuerte Bloody good 5 stars
3/25/00 mrenwick Chow Yun Fat is the coolest guy on the waffles, Van Damme!! 5 stars
12/25/99 Obi Wan About fucking time this flick was put up in here!! This movie kicks all action flicks ass! 5 stars
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  02-May-1989 (R)



Directed by
  John Woo

Written by
  John Woo

  Cow Yun-Fat
  Danny Lee
  Sally Yeh
  Kong Chu
  Kenneth Tsang
  Fui-On Shing

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