The Killer Chow Yun Fat Soundtrack Pro

The Killer (Korean Version) VCD

The Blade ten years earlier, this Tsui Hark-produced, John Woo-directed motion picture is a Jackson Pollock action painting where plot and character are boiled down to essential elements and mainlined straight to the heart. A 9mm weepie if you will.

Like the cocking of the hammer before the bullet in the head this picture starts in the relative calm of a church where hitman, Chow Yun-fat, and his manager, Stanley, are setting up a hit. A devout Christian, Woo is dead serious about all those crucifixes and doves flying about, a fact that's hard to remember now that they've become such ironic emblems. But in The killer, Woo's iconography is still fresh, and if you're willing to suspend your sense of irony it's possible to believe in them almost as strongly as he does.

Occasionally accused of making movies that are little more than bullet pornography, Woo's critics miss the point. The hallmark of pornography is insincerity, and if Woo is anything it's sincere. To him every turn and twist, every character's decision, every bullet that's fired, every henchman that's killed is an agonizing ritual as his characters are immersed in the crucibles of his films to have their sins burned away, their bodies purified in gun smoke and muzzle flashes. He's the hairshirt-wearing John the Baptist, suffering his way towards salvation. And The killer is his bible.

Chow Yun-fat and Danny Lee, hitman and policeman respectively, are given their crosses to bear in the opening scenes: Chow's is a nightclub singer blinded by him in a hit (Sally Yeh) and Lee's is the lost trust of his superiors after he kills a bystander during a tram shoot-out. Hardboiled Lee is thrown onto Chow's trail after a botched hit during which Chow earns the enmity of both Lee and the criminal who hired him and now wants him dead.

The most visual of film makers, Woo uses a battery of "only in the movies" techniques to show the intertwining of Lee and Chow's fates until the two face off, muzzle to muzzle, in a now-classic scene in blind Sally Yeh's apartment. Chow wants Lee off his back, Lee respects Chow but his attitude is once a thief always a thief. The confrontation ends, but as the two men learn that everyone in their respective worlds are against them, they slowly turn to each other for the kind of high-caliber support fellas like them need in a sinful world.

Chow Yun-fat's broad, expressive face is the perfect canvas for the kind of exquisite suffering Woo likes to see in his leading men, and for once Danny Lee comes off like a human being and not a crypto-fascist. Everything from the score, to the cinematography, to the legendary action scenes are pitch perfect. Like an illuminated manuscript, The killer glows.

by Grady Hendrix