In the second of my series of articles looking at John Woo's cycle of "heroic bloodshed" films, I discuss the the smash hit A Better Tomorrow, the director's hugely influential breakthrough.
The decision by Golden Harvest to shelve Heroes Shed No Tears can only have deepened John Woo's feeling of dejection. The director might easily have been condemned to making yet more comedies, continuing to be kept away from the themes and images that interested him. Fortunately, an escape route presented itself in the shape of Tsui Hark. With Tsui's assistance, Woo would make his passion project: an emotional, contemporary thriller fusing a novel style of action with the chivalry of old. A Better Tomorrow would be a massive hit across Asia. With it, John Woo would truly arrive.
In the first of my series of articles looking at John Woo's cycle of "heroic bloodshed" films, I discuss the director's first contemporary action film, Heroes Shed No Tears.
Although it is one of the least well-known of John Woo's action films, Heroes Shed No Tears is quite unique and significant within the director's filmography. Best viewed as a kind of proto-heroic bloodshed film, the project marked the first time Woo had made a contemporary, gunplay-oriented action movie. In this sense, and in some of its stylistic choices, the film is a direct antecedent to A Better Tomorrow (1986) - Woo's commercial breakthrough and the first true heroic bloodshed film. With its foreign setting and war aesthetic, it's also a precursor to Bullet in the Head (1990).
Tomboy (AKA The Assignment) (2016 / 2017 wide release) [IMDB}
Directed by Walter Hill
Starring Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Caitlin Gerard
Walter Hill's controversial sex change revenge thriller has a strong concept and some good performances. But hamstrung by his own very poor script and a tiny $5 million budget, the genre veteran turns in a muddled, often boring mess.
It's fair to say that Tomboy has had a troubled history. Based on a 1978 script that Hill had optioned and abandoned once before, the film has gone through numerous changes of title and a very poorly received premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016. Even before shooting began it was dogged with controversy because of its gender reassignment premise, and in the UK it's been released direct-to-video - and not even on Blu-Ray, at that. The film's single biggest problem, however, is simple: it's bad.
With its heady mix of the fact, fiction and folklore of the American frontier, the Western has been a popular genre for over a century. Detailing the dubious exploits of bounty hunter Silas Greaves, Techland's 2013 FPS Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a brilliant and under-recognised exploration of the Old West.
By 2013, the Call of Juarez series had picked up a very bad reputation indeed. The most recent game at the time, subtitled The Cartel, had become notorious for its poor quality and numerous technical issues. Many were surprised to learn that Polish developer Techland hadn't abandoned the franchise altogether. For its part, Gunslinger was released as an inexpensive download-only title and afforded very little promotion. It looked like another disappointment in the making - but while it didn't make many waves in its release, it won deservedly strong reviews.
In the first of a series of short pieces about some of the more important and entertaining films that are in the public domain, I take a look at the 17 pioneering Superman shorts made in the 1940s.
Superman is the world's best-known superhero – the star of countless comic books, TV series, films, and radio shows since his first appearance in Action Comics in 1938. His first on-screen adventures are not so familiar today, but had a tremendous impact not only on the Superman mythos but also on the history of animation.
Sometime film reviewer, Letterboxd user, novice Blu-Ray collector. Top 3 directors: Woo, Hill, Leone.
Henry V (UK, 1989) ★★★★½
The Fast and the Furious (USA, 2001) ★★★★
Goodfellas (USA, 1990) ★★★★★
[All Letterboxd Reviews]