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Archive - 9th Five Flavours Film Festival

Bullet in the Head

Dip huet gaai tau
Hong Kong 1990, 136’
subtitles: Polish and English
director: John Woo
screenplay: John Woo, Janet Chun, Patrick Leung
cinematography: Wilson Chan, Ardy Lam, Chai Kittikum Som, Wong Wing-hang
editing: David Wu, John Woo
music: Romeo Diaz, James Wong
cast: Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Jacky Cheung, Waise Lee, Simon Yam, Yolinda Yam
producer: John Woo
production: John Woo Film Production, Golden Princess Film Production Limited
language: Cantonese, Mandarin, English
colouration: colour

Awards and festivals

Hong Kong Film Award – najlepszy montaż / Best Editing

Film description

After "The Killer," Tsui Hark and John Woo went their separate ways. Interestingly, both artists decided to make films about Vietnam, but each according to his own vision. Tsui continued the adventure with "Better Tomorrow," making its feminist prequel. Woo's vision was a fresco showing the horrors of war and its influence on the people it impacted. It was, by far, the most expensive picture made in Hong Kong before 1990, and the director had to fund most of the production himself. Without the support of Tsui, a highly influential persona in the Hong Kong film circles, Woo was cut out from other fund sources.

The result is an epic film, very different from Woo's other pictures – moving, very personal, at times autobiographical. It has spectacular, beautifully choreographed shootings, a different king of violence is the most memorable – realistic, painful, leaving its mark on the protagonists' psyche.

The "Bullet" opens with social sequences unusual for the director's work, largely inspired by his difficult childhood. It's 1967. Ah Bee, Fai, and Little Wing, friends from the poor outskirts of Hong Kong, spend their time clashing with an enemy gang. When Fai kills one of his rivals, the friends decide to flee together to Vietnam, ridden by war and chaos. The aim is to avoid death and make a quick dollar on selling deficit goods. But when they are thrown right in the middle of a military conflict, their exciting adventure turns into a nightmare. Surviving in this world is not easy – can friendship and loyalty survive as well?

The film echoes "The Deer Hunter," "Once Upon a Time in America," and "Mean Streets." War sequences were inspired by the iconic images from Vietnam, but the film comments also on the Tienanmen massacre, which took place a year before, and deeply moved the filmmaker. It is the personal approach of the director that made "Bullet In The Head" the humanistic masterpiece, a meditation on the insanity of war.

Marcin Krasnowolski

John Woo

Born in 1946 in southern China, raised in Hongkong. Started his career as an assistant of the director in the legendary Shaw Brothers Studio (he worked with Chang Cheh, the legend of wuxia cinema). He debuted in 1973, but the breakthrough came only in 1986, with "A Better Tomorrow," made with Tsui Hark. Woo's subsequent Hongkong films confirmed his reputation of the master of action sequences. After 1992, he moved to Hollywood and gained acclaim for "Face/Off" and "Mission: Impossible II." He returned to China to direct his newest, two-part production, "The Crossing."

Selected filmography:

1986 Lepsze jutro / Better Tomorrow
1987 Lepsze jutro 2 / Better Tomorrow II
1989 Killer
1990 Kula w łeb / Bullet in the Head
1991 Był sobie złodziej / Once a Thief
1992 Hard Boiled. Dzieci Triady / Hard Boiled
1997 Bez twarzy / Face/Off
2000 Mission: Impossible 2 / Mission: Impossible II
2015 The Crossing

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