Woo. Woo’s case is his unabashed style and depth of filmography—there aren’t too many style-plus auteurs left this far down the list with a fourth best film as good as Hard Boiled or fifth as strong as A Bullet in the Head. If great auteurs can often be parodied (think Wes Anderson’s SNL skit) then how about John Woo? One of my major problems with Woo (and the reason I probably have a hard time finding room for the films in their respective top 100 of the decade) is how close they walk the line to camp. Leone could be both violent and funny without walking that line—and I’m not sure Woo always does. It has been far too long since I’ve seen many of them so I’m excited to revisit.
Best film: Face/Off
total archiveable films: 7
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (Face/Off)
most overrated: A Better Tomorrow is the film that really lifted Woo—but it lands at #928 in the TSPDT consensus top 1000 and though I’m not far off—I’m not sure I have a spot for it in my top 1000.
most underrated: It has to be Face/Off right? It is ranked on TSPDT as his 4th best (both A Better Tomorrow and The Killer are in the top 1000 and Hard Boiled is ahead of Face/Off on the list of 1001-2000).
gem I want to spotlight : Hard Boiled. Often regarded as one of the best action “oners” or one-shot action sequences.
- Woo makes urban westerns, balletic violence—bullets flying. This certainly sounds like Peckinpah (who worshiped Kurosawa). Leone is no doubt an influence, I’d consider Tony Scott’s a peer of Woo with his montage/coverage choices
- As far as narrative—we’re often dealing with good and evil, the thin line between cops/criminals and bonding between partners (and or) enemies. Haws’ work in masculinity in cinema is one to cite here
- Slow-motion work, dissolves, jumps, freezes and dissolves—all part of the arsenal for Woo- it is fair to say that Woo is a master editor
- The Killer
- A Better Tomorrow
- Hard Boiled
- A Bullet in the Head
- Red Cliff I
- Red Cliff II
By year and grades
|1986- A Better Tomorrow||HR|
|1989- The Killer||HR|
|1990- A Bullet In the Head|
|1992- Hard Boiled||R|
|2008- Red Cliff I||R|
|2009- Red Cliff II||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
will noah baumbach be soon on this list? He’s no visual master but he is one heck of a writer.
@m — yes indeed– Baumbach is coming up soon. I do think Marriage Story is his best work (certainly strongest visually) and I put more of an emphasis on non-recent work for this list. I’d rather let recent films sit a little and soak in…. so Baumbach’s greatest achievement for the purposes of this list is Squid and the Whale.
I think The Killer is his best work, and the most influential
So I clicked on this link probably about 30 minutes ago then had to put my phone away for a while, and when I came back I confused “The Killer” with “The Killing” from Stanley Kubrick, and thought “The Killing as Kubrick’s best film? And his most influential? What the hell?” I was very glad to see that was not the case when I found out this was Woo’s page.
Excited for Criterion releasing Infernal Affairs Triogy this upcoming Tuesday. The series is directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak. I was wondering who are some of the great Hong Kong directors aside from WKW and John Woo?
@James Trapp- Those would be the big two. Pretty big gap after those two as far as my knowledge goes at least. I think maybe Johnnie To next- maybe Stephen Chow next.
@Drake – Have you seen Woo’s film, Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979)?
It has an upcoming Criterion release and only 5 reviews on RT, with a 100 rating but again just 5 reviews.
@James Trapp- I have not, was not on my radar at all actually
@Drake – from what I have read it is more of a straight up Wuxia film than the Hong Kong action/gangster movies he became known for later on.
@James Trapp- Sounds interesting- keep me posted if/when you get to it