A Better Tomorrow ★★★½

ki·net·ic /kəˈnetik/
adjective
of, relating to, or resulting from motion.

John Woo’s relationship with Tsui Hark did not last very long, but it produced three of the most iconic films that Hong Kong ever produced (A Better Tomorrow 1 & 2, The Killer). A Better Tomorrow, the first of these, took director Woo from a boring and mundane recent resume to a hyper-kinetic career path that thrust him into the international consciousness. The film also introduced Chow Yun-Fat to the world, propelling him to superstardom in the East and stardom in the West.

The film follows two brothers who start the film on opposite sides of the law, and birthed many Woo and modern action cinema tropes. Among them: dusters, two-hand gunplay, slow motion action and the inversion of the good and bad guy dynamic. While not as engorged with action as later Woo work, the shoot-outs and action are phenomenal, the camerawork fresh and inspired and Yun-Fat is all cock and charisma. Even in this low budget actioner, you know that you are watching a star.

Woo’s American and later Hong Kong work certainly has its’ highlights, but the first 7 years of his resurgence from 1986-1992 remains his most iconic and contains all of his best work. His influence and fingerprints are all over modern cinema from Leon, Lock Stock and El Mariachi to True Romance, Pulp Fiction and Cowboy Bebop. Any fan of modern action and gangster cinema owes it to themselves to work through this period of Woo’s career. It remains as energetic and effective as ever, and continues to put most action films to shame.

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