BITH poster

Bullet in the Head

Waise Lee

Manadrin title: Diexue Jietou (Blood-splattered Streets)

Golden Princess/John Woo Film Prodction Ltd., 1990, 118 min. (original cut ran 126 min.)

Winner of the 1991 Hong Kong Film Award for Best Editing

Director: John Woo
Stars: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai ("Ben"), Jacky Cheung ("Frank"), Waise Lee ("Paul"), Simon Yam ("Luke"), John Woo (cameo as a cop)
Producers: John Woo and Terence Chang
Original story: John Woo
Screenplay: John Woo, Patrick Leung and Janet Chun
Cinematography: Wong Wing-Hang, Lam Kwok Wa, Chan Pui Kai and Somchai Kittikun
Editor: John Woo

Available on video (letterboxed and subtitled) from Tai Seng

Available on VCD from Universe -- a review can be found here

Three friends under fire

"Once the best of friends... now the worst of enemies!"

In 1967, three life-long friends' (Ben, Frank and Paul) lives are thrown into turmoil. Ben is getting married, and to pay for the wedding, Frank borrows money from a local loanshark. On his way to the wedding, Frank is attacked by a gang; he manages to escape, and later, when Ben and Frank seek revenge on the gang, they accidentally kill a man.

Knowing they must flee (to avoid both the law and the loanshark), the friends use Paul's underworld connections to arrange a "trip" to war-torn Vietnam to deliver various goods to a local crime boss. However, upon their arrival, they lose the contraband and are now trapped in the foreign country. Enlisting the aid of a suave gangster named Luke, they decide to rob the boss (and rescue a beautiful singer). However, their plan backfires and they are eventually captured by the Vietcong.

Now, their friendship is put to the ultimate test as they must fight for their lives...

This is one of Woo's lesser-known works (at least to Western viewers), but it's definetly one of his best films. Woo wanted to get away a bit from the cliches (dual guns, slow motion) that had become mainstays in HK cinema, so he chose this story, which is based on part on his childhood growing up in the slums of Hong Kong. While there is a boatload of action (particularly during a daring escape feom a P.O.W. camp), the emphasis here is on the interaction between the characters. This might have failed with lesser actors, but Tony Leung and (suprisingly, given his past body of work) Jacky Cheung give this film a firm foothold that carries it above similar movies.

While parts of the movie (particularly the almost-notorious "piss drinking" scene) may be difficult for some viewers and some parts border on melodrama, this is simply not just one of Woo's finest movies, it's one of the best HK movies ever, period.


Interesting trivia:

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