Chow Yun Fat plays Ah Jong - Jeff in the English dubbed version - a contract killer for the Triads. During a hit, he saves the life of bystander Jenny (Sally Yeh), but can only do so at the expense of her sight.

Ah Jong becomes Jenny's guardian angel, then decides to undertake one last job, to get out of the business and buy new corneas for her. It's not quite that easy to leave the Triads, however, nor is it possible to go around bumping people off without attracting the attention of the police. Cue gunfights.

Carefully treading between cool ruthlessness and moral torment, Chow Yun Fat's acting transcends any language barrier. Writer/director John Woo should be commended for drawing out such performances from his leading actors amongst all those slow motion blood spurts.

Danny Lee, as Inspector Li, cleverly mirrors elements of Ah Jong, highlighting their differences to brilliant effect. Chu Kong and Kenneth Tsang, as Ah Jong and Li's respective mentors, also deserve praise for hinting at the unlikely brotherhood between the two leading men. Sally Yeh doesn't have much to do beside saying "Aieee" and wandering around with her hands in front of her, pretending to be blind.

If everyone had acted as badly as Yeh, The Killer would still have been a classic. Woo's direction pretty much invented the gunplay genre of Hong Kong cinema, launching his career in the process. In retrospect the action sequences are choreographed more elegantly than the finest ballet. The only word that suffices is "Wow!"

The script is a little ropey in the early scenes - even ropier in the dubbed version - but this hardly matters. The final shoot-out should serve to remind Hollywood that an action film doesn't need to rely on showpiece stunts to be good.

Watch it. No excuses will be accepted.

Reviewed on: 02 Nov 2002
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A Triad hitman takes on one last job before leaving for a new life with a blind woman.
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Director: John Woo

Writer: John Woo

Starring: Chow Yun Fat, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh, Chu Kong, Paul Chu, Kenneth Tsang, Lam Chung

Year: 1989

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Hong Kong


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