The Killer (1989) Review

Director: John Woo

Genre(s): Action, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 111 minutes (standard version), 104 minutes (American version)

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Director John Woo’s The Killer, originally known as “Dip Huet Seung Hung,” is a film that fires on all cylinders on both the action and drama fronts. Virtuous Hong Kong hitman Ah Jong (Chow Yun-Fat) must go on one last mission to pay for eye surgery for Jenny (Sally Yeh), a woman he accidentally blinded. A key entry into the “heroic bloodshed” subgenre, this is a stylish and melodramatic crime-actioner that’s mandatory viewing for action fanatics.

The action scenes here, mainly in the form of shootouts, are spellbinding, and easily some of the best ever. Don’t expect realism from The Killer, as it features heroes with bottomless magazines jumping, leaping, and dodging all over the place to avoid being shot. Appropriately, the greatest action sequence in the movie is the grand finale, but just about any of the gunfights contained in it could’ve topped off a lesser action film.

The Killer definitely takes a heart-on-its-sleeve approach to its subject matter, which may come across as embarrassingly emotional for audiences unaccustomed to Asian filmmaking. Even if this picture’s bloodbath soap opera styling isn’t your thing, it’s hard not to feel the wallop packed by its punch. It has a big heart…and an even bigger body count.

Sure, there’s quite a bit of on-the-nose dialogue (at least on the subtitled version of the flick I own on home video), but The Killer just feels so right. Its blend of heartrending drama and relentless, two-fisted gunplay comes across as effortless. Of all of the John Woo movies I’ve seen, this is clearly the best, and I’m comfortable calling it his masterpiece.

My rating is 10 outta 10.

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