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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 4/30/99

The Killer
1989 (1998) - Magnum/Fox Lorber (Criterion)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Criterion's The Killer Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-, B+, A-

Specs and Features

110 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, deleted scenes, commentary by director John Woo and producer Terence Chang, film-themed menu screens, scene access (41 chapters), languages: Cantonese (DD mono), subtitles: English

If John Woo made a movie about stamp collecting, I'd watch it. Hell I'd be first in line. Years before anyone really knew about Hong Kong cinema, I'd hunker down with my copies of Tai Seng imported videos and marvel at his earlier work. Jeez Louise this guy can make a movie.

Anyway, The Killer may not be his absolute best film (that's a hard call between Hard-Boiled or Bullet In The Head), but it is his most accessible and his most entertaining. Things explode, people get shot and, well, things explode. But it's never gratuitous. It means something to Woo, and when it's all said and done, it means something to the audience as well.

The Killer follows a hit man named Jeff (the coolest star ever: Chow Yun Fat), as he pulls off one last job to help someone he accidentally hurt during a previous hit. The victim is Jennie, a beautiful singer who he is slowly falling in love with, and who he blinded when he shot his gun too close to her face during a hit (if that ain't love, then I dunno what is?). Hot on his trail is Inspector Li, a man who always gets his man. When the two aren't fighting each other, they're shooting black suited assassins who are trying to kill them both. I know it doesn't sound very intellectually stimulating, but it is. The characters are very deep, the banter is believable and everything just falls together so well.

Criterion did a great job with this disc. It was one of their first, but is still one of their best. The video is above average, bordering on superb. There is no noise to be found anywhere on the film. The sound is impeccable, placing the viewer in the dead center of swirling gunfire, explosions and boat chases. The commentary track, though hard to understand at some points due to thick accents, opens up the film. Woo and Terence Chang (his agent and producer) both understand each other so well, and you will too after listening to the track. Also included are a handful of deleted scenes that Woo felt bogged down the film, and he's right, they add no real heart to an already great story.

Todd Doogan
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The Killer (Fox Lorber)

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