This is tragedy at its most hilarious and comedy to break your heart; sweet violence in a hellish fairy tale.
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John Woo's trademark style reached its zenith in The Killer, with its ying-yang relationship between a good-hearted hit man and an anti-authority cop. But underneath the Miami Vice tailoring, it's as much a doomed romance as a shoot-'em-up.
This violent Hong Kong thriller has more psychological depth than most of its kind, but ultimately seems like a pointless exercise in style.
A lot of claims have been made for this campy bloodbath concerto (1989) by Hong Kong director John Woo, and I must admit that he's even better than Brian De Palma at delivering emotional and visceral excess with staccato relentlessness.
For all the bullets that are spent, The Killer spends just as much time ruminating on the likes of honor, friendship and even the allure of guns themselves. “Easy to pick up,” Chow observes at one point, “difficult to put down.” The Killer is hardly a cautionary tale, but contrary to what its blunt title implies, it is a complicated one.
It plays like the work of a filmmaker operating at the highest level of his abilities.
The scenes of gore and destruction are even more spectacular than Hong Kong's fog-shrouded skyline. The director repeatedly places the viewer at the center of the crossfire and turns the gyrating camera into the next best thing to a lethal weapon.