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Bullet in the Head (1990)

Cast: Jacky Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Waise Lee, more...
Director: John Woo, John Woo
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Image Entertainment
Genre: Action, Foreign, Hong Kong, Gangsters, Vietnam War
Running Time: 126 min.
Languages: Cantonese, Mandarin
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese
    see additional details...

Following up on his 1989 masterpiece The Killer, superstar action director John Woo directs this emotionally wrenching look at three friends waylaid in war-torn Vietnam. Set in 1967, when clashes between leftists protesting British rule and the police were tearing the colony apart, the film opens with Frank (Jacky Cheung Hok-yau) offering the deed to his parents' home as collateral to a loan shark, so that he can pay for his buddy Ben's (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) wedding party. Unfortunately, Frank is ambushed by a thug named Ringo and his associates who make off with the money. Ben and Frank vow revenge and end up accidentally killing the guy. Wanted by both the law and the triads, Frank, Ben, and their pal Paul (Waise Lee Chi-hung) head for Vietnam with a case of fake Rolexes and dreams of making a quick buck. Immediately upon arrival, those dreams are dashed -- their wares are blown up in a tin-can military coup, they are almost shot by the South Vietnamese army, and their passports are seized. Though tempted to throw in the towel, Frank and Ben are convinced by Paul into joining forces with shady hit man named Luke (Simon Yam Tat-wah) to shake down club owner Leong (Lam Chung). The scheme goes horribly wrong, ending with the death of a beautiful drug-addled singer named Sally (Yolinda Yan Chi-sin) and our three heroes accused of being CIA agents in a North Vietnamese POW camp. Later, though, Frank saves Paul's live and get injured in the process, Paul can only think of financial gain and saving his own neck. He shoots Frank in the head when he fears his friend's cries of agony will tip off the Vietcong. Unfortunately, the bullet doesn't kill Frank, leaving him brain damaged, drug-addled, and in chronic pain. After Ben learns of Frank's condition, he confronts Paul who has since returned to Hong Kong to become a prominent businessman. John Woo was originally planning to make this film under the name A Better Tomorrow 3 until Tsui Hark took the franchise away from him, fashioning his own version. ~ Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

excessive by WReynolds January 14, 2005 - 8:25 AM PST
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
The level of violence is excessively high, after two hours of relentless gun battles and explosions any ending
short of Armageddon would have seemed anticlimactic, and Woo's demolition derby ending offered few rewards for this viewer's patience. Self-indulgent seems too mild a criticism . . . gray when it should be the saturated reds and yellows of bloody explosions.

If you can cope with extreme violence, a superior film, not to be missed by Waiguoren99 April 1, 2003 - 11:13 PM PST
6 out of 7 members found this review helpful
This epic, John Woo's most uncomfortably violent film (especially the scenes from the Viet Cong prisoner - of - war camp), is often compared to The Deer Hunter. The script is very well constructed both as a complex character study as well as a study of the effects of greed and violence on the human soul. The level of that violence is stunning, but each scene of violence ties to the next, and all are critical for their eventual psychological effects on each of the three men. The acting by all three principals is outstanding, with special mention for Jacky Cheung. More often seen in comedy roles, his portrayal of a man in the extremity of pain and despair is searing. This is one of Waise Lee's best and most complex performances. Simon Yam, more famous for psychopathic characters, is wonderful. And as one of the great chameleon actors of our times, Tony Leung Chiu-wai's performance as Ben anchors the film. Woo's directing is, as expected, faultless. The violence is meant to be terribly distressing; if you can cope with that, this is a superior film, not to be missed.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.40)
121 Votes
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