Format: DVD from NetFlix on kick-ass portable DVD player.
An assassin named Ah Jong (Chow Yun-Fat) performs a hit at the behest of the Triad. During the battle, the muzzle flash of one of his pistols severely damages the eyes of a young singer named Jennie (Sally Yeh). While he wants to leave the life of assassination, Ah Jong realizes that only money will get Jennie a corneal transplant, and since he holds himself responsible for her current affliction, he takes it on himself to perform one last job.
Unfortunately for Ah Jong, the Triad has decided that he’s outlived his usefulness as a hitman, so after the successful assassination in question, they attempt to take him out permanently. During the firefight, a young girl is wounded, and Ah Jong rushes her to the hospital. Here he is confronted by police detective Li Ying (Danny Lee), who now knows the identity of the man behind a collection of recent killings. The rest of the film concerns this odd little triangle. Ah Jong falls for the woman he wounded, Li Ying attempts to capture Ah Jong, but is impressed with the man’s evident compassion, and Jennie sits in the middle. Meanwhile, the Triad attempts to kill everyone involved both on principle and to avoid paying Ah Jong what they owe him.
So let’s talk about what really matters here: the action. Any film like this, that runs that a couple of hundred miles per hour does need to slow down at times, but Woo keeps the action running hot and fast with a body count that rivals anything on the market, including war epics. The comparisons to directors like Peckinpah are almost too obvious to be worth mentioning, with the slow motion ballet of the firefight and the fountaining sprays of blood. There is a sense of the choreography of these battles being as carefully choreographed as any martial arts film, with stunts that certainly defy the laws of physics happening at regular intervals. And so what? It’s what we expect in a film like this, nay even demand of it. We want to see almost supernatural killers doing their thing.
Woo may or may not be the director who came up with the two-gun style of gunfighting in films like this one, but he is very much the man who popularized it to the point where it is entirely associated with him. Anyone using two pistols, particularly when jumping or diving, is paying homage to Woo. There’s a lot of that here, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t wildly fun to watch.
The melodrama is pretty high in this one, though. The reveal to Jennie that Ah Jong is actually the killer who blinded her is missing only a massive minor chord played on an organ to really complete the feel. Jennie is also remarkably high strung and kind of stupid. The scene in her apartment where Li and Ah Jong confront each other would be filled with a brilliant comic and deadly tension if not for her. To my mind, she’s easily the weakest link in the film. If she were a stronger character, I admit that Ah Jong’s pity for her would be less critical as his motivating influence, but she would also play stronger as the femme fatale that this film really needs.
It needs that because below all of the gun ballet and the melodrama, Dip Huet Seung Hung is really a modern film noir, complete with high-paid, skilled assassin agreeing to one final job (and thus a doomed job) before getting out of the business for good. Chow yun-Fat plays the role perfectly, an intense combination of ruthless killer and soft-hearted Samaritan. He’s an easy actor and an easy character to like.
Really, though, the sell here is the fight sequences, which are as good as anything else in the Hong Kong action spectrum. These, but most especially the climactic scene complete with the slow motion fluttering of doves, are more than worth the price of admission here. It’s hyperviolent to be sure, but anyone expecting something different from John Woo has only him- or herelf to blame.
Why to watch Dip Huet Seung Hung: Everyone should see at least one John Woo film.
Why not to watch: It strains believability.