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英雄本色 (1986)
A Better Tomorrow

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 02/13/2011
Summary: it's easy to become a gangster, but it's hard to get out...

ho (ti lung) and mark (chow yun-fat) are prominent members of a triad organisation, who are currently involved in a huge counterfeiting operation. when a deal in taiwan goes wrong, ho finds himself incarcerated and questioning his lifestyle, whilst mark is left isolated. meanwhile, ho's ambitious understudy, shing (waise lee), takes full advantage of his absence, whilst kit (leslie cheung), ho's younger brother, finds that ho's former lifestyle is impacting on his prospects in the police force. with ho being released from prison, his return to hong kong is going to cause some friction...

having spent around fifteen years in the hong kong film industry, writing and directing a slew of old school martial arts flicks, cantonese opera adaptations and very silly / horror comedies. the film began as an idea of tsui hark, who wanted to rework a film from the sixties - 'story of a discharged prisoner' - but his schedule proved too prohibitive and he passed the reigns on to woo. basically, this decision made woo's career, which was stagnating. turning his back on the comedies he'd been churning out and developing a narrative akin to martial arts films where he's cut his directorial teeth, but populating it with gangsters and guns, rather than kung fu. the film came out with little fanfare, but was incredibly popular and soon broke many box office records, which it would hold for a number of years and, more importantly, was a major film in the development of of the modern hong kong action film, ushering in the concepts of heroic bloodshed and bullet ballet.

not only was 'a better tomorrow' a new page in the story of john woo and hong kong cinema, but also for its stars. ti lung, a hero of many martial arts films had found his career flagging since leaving shaw brothers and there was talk of him being a little washed up. still, his portrayal of ho; the older brother, attempting to escape his triad past and become a better himself, was so strong that it reinvented him as a performer and ensured that he would deservedly continue in hong kong film. similarly, chow yun-fat, having cut his chops as a soap opera star and romantic lead had fallen into a career rut, from which escape seemed a long shot. however, a couple of solid dramatic turns attracted woo to him; thinking that he would be ideal for the part of mark, as he didn't look like an action star. for leslie cheung, as well, this film provided the breakthrough role for him; some solid drama, rather than the fluffier projects that the young cantopop star had been cast in previously.

'a better tomorrow' is a a classic. not only because of its wider importance, as stated above, but because it's just a bloody good film. widely rejecting the goofier side of hong kong comedy, which had been a cinematic staple, he film takes itself very seriously (on the whole) and concentrates on the relationship between four men and what drives and motivates them. the film is ti lung's and his performance is a real treat, conveying the sense that he is both a man with a background that means he is someone to be taken very seriously, but with a contemplative, world-weary quality which is making him re-examine who he is. meanwhile, chow yun-fat is a man for whom loyalty, friendship and the moral code of the gangster is all: he also gets to wear a duster, shades, chews on a matchstick and fill his enemies with bullets from the guns he holds in each hand. a look which has defined him ever since.

and, it is the scene in taiwan, where chow's mark waltzes in to a restaurant, hiding guns in flower pots, before bursting in on a bunch of taiwanese triads and, in slow motion glory, begins to redefine the style of gun-play filled action sequences. great stuff. and, as well as a director and a cast who are all hitting stride together, i haven't even mentioned the film's iconic theme tune - which did give me a little rush when it makes its first appearance - and leslie cheung's theme song, which became an instant mega hit.

an important film and a classic.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 11/04/2010
Summary: Classic

I haven't watched any HK films for a couple of years, really, but decided to revisit some recently. Not many live up to my memory of them, but A BETTER TOMORROW actually exceeds it. It's not by mistake that it's regarded as one of the classic films from Hong Kong, or that it spawned an entire genre of imitators. The characters are some of the best and most memorable, and the performances from the cast superb. Even Waise Lee doesn't suck in this one.

It definitely marks a change of style for John Woo, after a string of comedies brought him box office disasters. Clearly influenced by the male bonding and heroic sacrifices for loyalty that were a staple of the martial arts films by his mentor Chang Cheh, and indeed the bloodshed and violence, but updated for a world where swords have given way to guns.

Comedy had ruled the Hong Kong box office for a long time in 1986, and it's fortunate that Woo and producer Tsui Hark did not succumb to the temptation to include some here... the film is played totally straight, and would not have worked any other way.

Chow Yun Fat's character Mark is iconic, his cool style backed up by fierce passion and intensity has been often imitated ever since. Whenever a hero goes into battle brandishing dual pistols, you can't help thinking of Mark-Gor.

Technically the film is of a very high standard, certainly compared to its peers, and though it can't help but look a little dated after 25 years, it still stands up well and deserves to be seen by anybody with a passing interest in Asian cinema.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 10/30/2010
Summary: Mighty over-rated

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 09/22/2007
Summary: truly remarkable

Quick Cuts: Many movie fans/web surfers visiting Happy Fortune Screening Room have e-mailed me about my feelings on a number of the more popular titles of Hong Kong Cinema that, until now, have been excluded in the programming sections. There are only so many ways to praise a film, and many of the more popular titles have been covered quite well in a good number of places. O.K., here we go.

Director John Woo is Hong Kong's greatest export of the 1980's. His film, A Better Tomorrow, is his best film and is one of the seminal works of the decade. It's my favorite "Woo", one of my most favorite movies of all-time. His film, The Killer, is his best film and is one of the seminal works of the decade. It's my favorite "Woo", one of my most favorite movies of all-time. I'm repeating myself, I know. The two films are truly remarkable works of art. If you hold a gun to my head [in the purest action movie sense of the phrase], I'd have to rate A Better Tomorrow over The Killer.

[En español] Director John Woo de Hong Kong es la mayor exportación de la década de 1980. Su película, "A Better Tomorrow", es su mejor película y es una de las obras seminales de la década. Es mi favorito "Woo", una de mis películas favoritas de la mayoría de todos los tiempos. Su película, "The Killer", es su mejor película y es una de las obras seminales de la década. Es mi favorito "Woo", una de mis películas favoritas de la mayoría de todos los tiempos. Estoy repitiendo a mí mismo, lo sé. Las dos películas son realmente notables obras de arte. Si tiene una pistola en mi cabeza [en la película de acción más puro sentido de la frase], me vería obligado a la tasa "A Better Tomorrow" encima de "The Killer".

[En français] Director John Woo à Hong Kong est la plus grande exportation de 1980. Son film, A Better Tomorrow, est son meilleur film et est l'une des oeuvres de la décennie. C'est mon préféré "Woo", l'un de mes films préférés de tous les temps. Son film, The Killer, est son meilleur film et est l'une des oeuvres de la décennie. C'est mon préféré "Woo", l'un de mes films préférés de tous les temps. Je me répéter, je le sais. Les deux films sont vraiment remarquables oeuvres d'art. Si vous êtes en possession d'une arme à feu à la tête [dans le film d'action pur sens de la phrase], j'aurais au taux A Better Tomorrow sur The Killer.

more at

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 02/25/2007
Summary: This is the one where...

By now, everyone should know the story of two brothers on either side of the law. Triad boss Sung (Ti Lung), along with his partner in crime Mark Gor (Chow Yun-Fat) plan one more shady deal when the former’s brother Kit (Leslie Cheung) becomes a police officer. It all goes horribly wrong, leaving Sung to take the rap while the up-and-coming gangster Shing (Waise Lee) takes his place.

A BETTER TOMORROW is, alongside THE KILLER, probably the most famous non-kung fu Hong Kong film in existence. For me, it’s probably the quintessential 80’s gangster movie - regardless of nationality.

That’s not to say it is without fault. Many have remarked that it is now showing its age, and it does border uncomfortably on melodrama in places.

But it’s the characters and performances that made this film several cuts above your average Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed affair. On first viewing, I had literally no idea that Ti Lung was a kung fu hero in a previous life. He seems to have been born for the role, and gives a stunning performance as a man torn between the only way of life he knows and his love for his brother. Apparently, he based the relationship between Sung and Kit on his real-life working relationship with the late Fu Sheng. Luckily, this film gave Ti Lung a new lease of life as a character actor after a period of obscurity and alcohol abuse following the demise of the once-mighty Shaw studios.

I guess it’s Chow Yun-Fat that most will be drawn to, though. There are certainly many iconic moments for him, and you tend to want to use the phrase “this is the one where...” to describe what happens all the time (such as “this is the one where he hides his extra guns in the plant pots”, etc). The fact is, though, that if you’re a dedicated Chow watcher you’re probably going to be a bit surprised that he doesn’t get as much screen time as you’d expect.

Rounding off the trio of leads, Leslie Cheung plays the idealistic kid brother of Sung. I’ll come right out and say it – I don’t think he was the right choice. Cheung was a decent actor who could play many different types of roles, but I think he bit off more than he could chew with this. He just doesn’t come over as a convincing cop to me.

Waise Lee is also in this film, and thankfully he doesn’t overact. Remember how he seemed to want to single-handedly wreck the later Woo classic A BULLET IN THE HEAD? I don’t know what went wrong in that film, but here he actually gives a very good performance. A sigh of relief all round.

One thing that is often overlooked is the depiction of Hong Kong itself in this movie. It seems almost like a character in itself, and some of the shots are pretty incredible and used to great effect. It’s hardly an attempt at creating more tourism, but even when someone is being brutally tortured, the backdrops are stunningly impressive.

As has been noted, A BETTER TOMORROW really is just an updated version of the chivalric films of the 60’s and 70’s, just with guns instead of swords. That’s certainly not to take anything away from the revolutionary nature of the film, but on occasions you can’t help but be reminded of the films of Chang Cheh, et al – particularly classics involving the very same Ti Lung!

As a John Woo film, it’s not my absolute favourite (BULLET IN THE HEAD just about pips it and HARD BOILED is...well, HARD BOILED!), but it isn’t regarded as a classic for nothing. It obviously goes without saying that it is still a “must see”.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 02/22/2007

Director John Woo, who did his tenure in martial arts before washing to shore in forgettable comedies, reinvented his unprofitable reputation along with that of slumping romantic lead Chow Yun-fat in "A Better Tomorrow" a Valentine's Day for triads that would change the face of action cinema forever. It's debatable whether the filmmakers have gone on to do bigger and better things but in 1986 "A Better Tomorrow" blew Hong Kong audiences away and remains one of the former colony's finest films. Shaw Brothers veteran Ti Lung and Canto pop icon Leslie Cheung share top billing with Chow.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 07/31/2005
Summary: Both old and new

The themes which run through martial arts movies include betrayal/redemption, the triumphant return of the outcast and victory over impossible odds through equally impossible effort. Heroes and villains in martial arts movies continue to fight after being kicked, punched, clubbed, slashed and speared. Men bond with each other because of their devotion to martial arts and the school they have chosen—and they can also become deadly enemies for the same reason.

In “A Better Tomorrow” John Woo updates, comments upon and subverts many of these conventions while keeping their structure intact. He replaces the years of training in kung fu with years of devotion to criminal enterprises. The martial arts schools and the masters that run them are now triads and gang bosses. The hero isn’t punched or kicked, he is shot. Many of the wounds would be fatal, some instantaneously so, but he lives to fight (shoot) another day. The heroes are sold out by treacherous associates and forced to struggle outside their former life to return to it and seek revenge.

Woo fetishizes firearms and gun violence—so does, for example, Sam Peckinpaugh. Peckingpaugh does so while turning an American iconic genre, the western, on its head in. Woo gives the Hong Kong action film a good spin. Peckingpaugh had a boatload of all but over the hill action stars in “The Wild Bunch”, while Woo was satisfied with Ti Lung. Peckinpaugh’s men were doomed—history had passed them by, they were no longer relevant. They went out in a blaze of glorified gore, heroic in the sense that they stood their ground even when faced with certain death. The heroic violence in ABT was a bit different—Mark, Ho and company are united because of the shared brotherhood of the outlaw—not only outside of the law as most people know it, but betrayed and cast out of the hoodlum domain as well.

ABT made stars of Chow Yun Fat and John Woo, so much so that Mark Gor’s trademark shades, long trench coat, toothpick and insouciant air added up to a new icon for action heroes. One critic wrote that it seemed that Mark Gor could sneer his enemies to death.

John Woo moved the cinematic world. Chow Yun Fat was his fulcrum.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 03/15/2005
Summary: Canonical Bullet Ballet

It would be a wonderful thing indeed if movies and their associated reviews could stand timeless and unchanging in their impact and usefulness (respectively), but such is not the case. The world moves forward and things change. A Better Tomorrow (ABT) exemplifies this perfectly. It is considered by self-designated HK action experts (i.e., fan boys running "websites") to be among the best HK action movies ever. And yes, at the time (19 years ago at the time of this review), it had quite an effect. But, now? It has now become a dated film, in small part due to its modern setting, but mostly because of a rather distinct B-movie/direct-to-video feel. In fact, the work "parody" crossed my mind several times during this most recent viewing. It simply has not aged as well as other classic films in HK cinema history.

Dated nature of the film aside, is the feeling evoked in this reviewer of the myth that is so frequently used in films involving this much violence: the sense of it all being OK "because we are doing it out of love and respect for our brothers." Of course such myths are great if you need to program young boys into being killers, or consumers of video games involving large-scale murder. The myth has been explored and deconstructed ad nauseum in social commentary, literature and independent films. And far from being a "censorship" or "moral values" issue (which is at every level absurd), this is about the ability to discriminate between what makes a film great versus what constitutes a pointless but titillating visual depiction (a.k.a. porn). I would argue that porn and Bullet Ballets could potentially be art forms; others would say it's just obscenity.

By combining gunplay, bloodshed, and the "brotherhood" concept in a stylized modern action movie, Woo single handedly invented a new sub-genre in HK cinema (that Hollywood and westerners immediately fell in love with). To sweeten the pot, we also get elements of gun worship, glamorous torture, brutality and mass-murder. To make such content enjoyable is quite an achivement, and undoubtedly people do find this content "enjoyable." The parallels to porn "fetishes" are curiously similar. In fact this movie could be considered the canonical introduction the "HK Bullet Ballet fetish." That Woo works exclusively in Hollywood now should surprise nobody, as this type of violence fetishism was long-ago de rigueur in their commercialized cinema products. One can carry the argument further and say Woo is really an anomoly in the HK cinematic milieu. He is a Chinese director with mostly western tastes and styles...and his inventing of the Bullet Ballet genre, is really a manifestation of the unfortunate westernization of HK cinema. The so-called New Wave.

As an example, it's easy to call the HK martial arts genre an art, along the same lines that martial dance like Beijing Opera is considered so. We are seeing a depiction of beauty and grace, and often the violence depicted is quite removed from mayhem or murder. More dance than combat, and unquestionably a performing art. John Woo-type movies, and the Bullet Ballets simply glamorize and stylize mayhem. Is that different?

What is art? What is shit? Is a film an expressive work of art with relevant social commentary or is it just a video game with cool special effects and awesome action scenes. The fact that the films calls these questions into play was a sign that the film was, for better or worse, breaking new ground. Of course, now, nearly 20 years later this level of violence is considered laughably tame, and the quality of choreography is now done on television.

Of course, if we choose to turn off our brains, remove social analysis, and look purely at the stylistic content (important in examining an HK movie), then there is a great deal of beauty in the performances: Leslie (Gorgor) Cheung reveals to the world signs of his potential as a great actor (which he unquestionably became) as well as Chow Yun-fat's legendary performance as the supercool Mark. To a lesser extent, Ti Lung's performance was also good but somewhat wooden--which is quite a contrast to see him in movies made 10 years previous where one sees an actor with towering screen presence. Ti Lung just doesn't seem to have the same impact in films set in a modern period as he did in the period films.

Tsui Hark and John Woo have acting roles here too. Neither of them has the slightest business being in front of a camera--and not because they are ugly (which they most certainly are) but because they have the combined screen charisma of a pile of rocks painted flat grey.

The skill and performances of the actors really make this movie. It is memorable despite the gratuity, bloodshed, the stylized gunplay, and inconsequential mayhem. It remains a classic, and likely would be still be considered so whether it were directed by Woo or by, say, Sylvia Chang...

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/18/2003

Mark is a top gangster, working as a counterfeiter for the Triads. His best friend and partner, Ho, wants to get out of "the life" as his brother Kit is about to become a cop, and he knows a gangster with a brother who's a cop quickly becomes a marked man.

Ho offers to do one more job, taking his young protoge, Sheng, along. The job turns out to be an ambush and Ho ends up being captured by the police. Upon hearing about this, Mark takes revenge for his friend, but in the process, he is crippled by a shot to the leg -- leaving Sheng in control of the counterfeiting ring. Then, Ho and Kit's father is killed by an assassin and Kit finally learns what his brother does for a living.

Upon his release from prison, Ho faces many challenges. He wants to go straight -- but the Triad has other ideas. Mark, regulated to being Sheng's servant, wants revenge but also needs Ho's help. Finally, Ho must try to repair his relationship with Kit, who has become a detective. The movie ends with a gut-wrenching climax that features some of the best gunplay ever put on film.

While slow-moving and melodramatic in parts, A Better Tomorrow is simply one of the best action/dramatic films ever made. ABT made stars out of Chow Yun-Fat (who gives a great performance) and John Woo (who would later be credited with kick-starting the "heroic bloodshed" genre), and the action scenes (particularly the one where Mark takes out a restaurant full of gangsters) are phenomenal. Don't let those jaded old-timers on usenet fool you -- ABT is still a great film some fifteen years after its' premiere.

Reviewed by: frogurt
Date: 03/28/2003
Summary: Woo Blends Story and Action in A Better Tomorrow


Ti Lung --------- Sung Tse Ho

Chow Yun Fat ---- Mark Lee

Leslie Cheung --- Sung Tse Kit

Lee Che-hung ---- Shing

Emily Chu ------- Jackie

John Woo

Tsui Hark

John Woo (Hard Target, Face Off) directs this simple but engaging crime drama about a reforming triad member, Sung Tse Ho (Ti Lung), who plans to quit the business on request of his father. Ho's father does not want to see his two sons, Ho and his younger brother Kit (Leslie Cheung), an up and coming police officer, "play cops and robbers".

Chow Yun Fat shines as Mark, a charismatic and chivalrous triad member of Ho. Dressed up in shades, trenchcoat, and match stick in mouth, the character of Mark leaves a lasting image on this film. Although early on we see Mark as a cocky veteran gang member, we see him hit rock bottom as a washed up stooge, after he becomes crippled, and then as a defiant ex-con fighting for his respect. Chow plays these three parts brilliantly.

Woo nicely blends in the plot and gun play together.

The film does shows flaws with its dated soundtrack and editing. Some bits of slapstick humour, common to hk films, also are unnecessary.

4 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Wu'xiaBadger
Date: 02/06/2003
Summary: A little Over-rated

Not that this is a bad film in any way, its just not that good. As far as Wooian Heroic bloodshed goes, I like "The Killer" and "Hard Boiled" more. Like most of Woo's stuff, the plot is pretty flimsy; but the actors, music, cinematography, etc., are all good. But except for Chow's performance, they're not great, and the fight sequences, with a couple exceptions, lack any unique quality. Frankly, this movie never inspired me to watch the sequels, and I find it hard to believe it is held in such high esteem. 7/10

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/23/2002
Summary: Exceptional and Gripping. Buy.

This is a GREAT film. Not in the way great is used casually, but I mean BIG, LARGE, DOMINANT. Sure, it's a bit old, some things date it, but watch it and you will be totally at one with this fantastic movie. Don't expect action a la Hard Boiled because there isn't a lot. Do expect a story and characters that arguable sum up to Woos best. Only the Killer can be regarded as greater, and that is debatable.

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 02/06/2002

My favorite non-martial arts movie from Hong Kong. I don't usually say this about an action movie, so believe me when I say it's one of the best. IMO superior to The Killer and Hard Boiled.


Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: The CLASSIC

This is the movie that really made the careers of John Woo, Chow Yun Fat & Tsui Hark on an international level. Some of the best acting, directing, and producing with an unforgettable story line, to make this one of the best movies to come out of Hong Kong.

This movie has a strong emotional feel to it, the actors really do a good job. Drama, action, and emotions all come together to form this masterpiece.

A Better Tomorrow tells the story of two brothers, one a police officer (Leslie Cheung) and the other a gangster (Ti Lung), although Git (played by Leslie Cheung) doesn't know it. Sung Ho (Ti Lung) is best friends with fellow gangster Mark (Chow Yun Fat) who are running a counterfeit money operation. They take on a new guy Dai Shin (Waise Lee) and train him up in the operation. However, one day a deal goes wrong and Sung Ho is caught by the police. At the same time his father is murdered and together, this destroys the relationship between the two brothers, as Git blames his brother for his fathers death. To make things even worse Git has been turned down from his promotion that he's been working so hard towards because he is related to a well known gangster, and feels discriminated.

After several years go by, a lot has been going on in the triad world. When Sung Ho is released from jail, he finds that his brother has still not forgiven him and his best friend is no longer part of the syndicate and is a bum. Things get worse when he finds out that the head of the syndicate is no other than Dai Shin, and he wanted nothing to do with Mark.

With the friends reunited again, they decide it's time for pay-back. Sung Ho wants to prove to his brother Git that he has changed and he will give himself up after he gets revenge on Dai Shin. After a long gun battle the two friends finish off Dai Shin and his syndicate. But Mark is killed in the process, and thinking he has nothing to loose, Sung Ho gives himself up to his brother to arrest, as he sees it the only way for his brother to finally forgive him and to get his promotion.

A very strong movie, original, clever, inovitive, just a classic that will always be in the HK movie history books. A personal favourite of mine, I'm sure this will always remain fresh everytime you watch it.

Highly recommended

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Apollyon
Date: 10/27/2001
Summary: Legend

10/10 ***** What more can I say.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/08/2001
Summary: Very good

A very moving movie which focus is more drama than action, even though there is plenty of action!! I am so sure i had written a review of this movie already but anyway this is one of Chow Yun Fat's best!! The more you watch this, the more you like it!!


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: nomoretitanic
Date: 04/17/2001
Summary: Aged a little maybe?

I just saw this on DVD again this afternoon, it had been four years. It was my favorite movie in my early teens. I couldn't believe it, it was flawed?!

This was a movie that I'd deified, and now watching it again, I realized that it's aging, badly. I still loved it. I tried my darndest to overlook its wrinkles, but let's faced it: A Better Tomorrow is a classic that's being outdated.

There are some things that'll age like wine, things like the acting, the chemistry, the basic plotlines, the charisma, the choreography and all that intangibal stuff. But then there is the background music that features heavy synthesizer, the out-of-place gags involving Jackie's cello, the overly melodramatic (not being redundant) opening nightmare sequence, the badly dubbed voices (why do all Taiwanese people sound like mainlanders? Why do all white people talk like cowboys?), and those freaking shades.

In my humble opinion I think the problem is that John Woo is not confident enough in his filmmaking. He does not trust his timeless themes and his transcontinental images. Therefore he adds the so-called "hip" music and many times gratuitous scenes to what he's doing so well already. Take the first scene with Ho (Ti Lung) and Kit (Leslie Cheung) for example--okay that fake bodysearch thing already shows that they're tight, but Woo has to go over the top with that tickling sequence. Or to show that everyone loves Mark and Ho he displays that scene where EVERYONE in the office greets them and whatnot. I'm not saying the scenes're implausible, I'm just saying that they're too much. For me at least. You can find those scenes in couple of his other movies too--like when Chow Yun Fat starts doing flips and flicking the cards in Once a Thief, or the Tienanmen Square homages in Bullet in the Head, or the cute little baby in Hard Boiled. Sometimes I just wanna scream at the TV screen, dammit John, get a grip, get a hold of yourself man.

It seems to me that Woo has a real gift for genuine human drama, and not a lot of gift for syrupy melodrama. He misses that balance couple of times in this movie, which keeps it from being a timeless classic instead it's just a monumental, revolutionary film.

Dammit John. Dammit.

Reviewed by: dragyn
Date: 03/04/2001
Summary: Iconic Mobsters & Rivers Of Blood

"A Better Tomorrow" is a ground-breaking, genre defining gangster movie, made by the master of violence: Hong Kong action director John Woo.

The story is, in itself, relatively simple; it's not even particularly original. It's the age-old tale of feuding brothers; in this case, Kit (Leslie Cheung) is a policeman, and Ho (Ti Lung) is a gangster.

But don't worry too much about the story; it's not the story that matters. What matters is the way Woo skillfully reveals that story little by little, through his tremendous, unforgettable characters, until every tired cliche has impact.

And the most unforgettable character of all is Mark Gor (Chow Yun-Fat), a mobster who is also Ho's best friend. He doesn't have the most screen time, but the image that remianed in the mind of all Hong Kong after "A Better Tomorrow" was released, was undoubtably Mark Gor; Mark Go, blazing across the screen in Woo's soon-to-be trademark slo-mo, surrounded by a haze of bullets, with a gun in each hand and a matchstick between his teeth. He was the hero of heroes; Hong Kong had never seen anything like it, and the younger generation responded by getting matchsticks and shades and trecnhcoats of their own.

And I haven't even started on the action yet. Woo's action defies every rule applied to on-screen violence, and is only better for it. He uses slo-mo to devstating effect, and doesn't spare us the mind-numbing detail either. His violece is far more beautiful than it is possible to believe mere violence ever could be; possibly this is brought about by the fact that not one bullet that is fired, not one drop of blood that is spilled, and not one splintered bone appears on the screen without an incredibly strong underlying emotional impact. In fact, it is even feasible to go as far as to say that Woo's violence has a strong anti-violence message behind it.

I rate "A Better Tomorrow": 9/10
I'm very loathed to give ANYTHING a 10.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Fatty
Date: 02/18/2001
Summary: Oh...My...God!

Now this is one kick ass movie! From start to finish I was hooked on this film. It had some sweet Gunfights and cool characters...

Now I'll start with the acting, well the acting was excellent for me, Chow Yun Fat kicked ass, Ti Lung also kicked ass. Every actor in this film kicked ass. Waise Lee as Shing was very cool aswell, First he was a cool beginner Gangster then after a certain part, he becomes a total badass and couldn't care less about Mark and Ho. Leslie Cheung as Kit was pretty cool, But he would've been better if he used two hands for two machine guns, then he'll be making some business :D

Now the plot, well at first I didn't get it. But after seeing this movie like 5 times I got it now. And I did like it. Nice flow and has time to show off all the characters in the film.

But to me one of the best things in this film was the music, It ruled!!! The beginner it had happy music then after awhile, dark music took over the film. But my fav song is where you see *Spoiler* Mark aka Fat killing alot of bums in a resturant that got his best buddy in jail.

Now Time to talk about the gunfights, they were good, but nothing like Hard Boiled or something. I really did enjoy the gunfights in ABT, John Woo was my hero after seeing all the slowmotion shots. But the true kickass part was at the Resturant, definetly Innovative if you ask me. But why did Mark die? He was my fav character, it would've been cool seeing Mark instead of Ken in Part 2 but nope...It didn't happen :(

So in all a great movie, great plot, excellent music and pretty cool gunbattles that will serve your needs for 8 or so months.

5/5 for me

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: jasonlau128
Date: 01/03/2001
Summary: A woo-testical film

The Dictator does a good job in telling his actors what to do. Especially that Chow yun fat guy, John Woo tells him what to do like the man he is. And for Leslie Cheung, well I am sure John did a good work out on him eventhough it was unnecessary as Cheung is the naturally submissive kind of guy, but never the less John still "beat his ass into submission".

The story involves a couple of guys doing things to each other - in some cases these things are not very nice and they are unnatural and can get arrested in certain countries and put behind bars. At which point even more unnatural things can occur.

The best bit is when Chow gets his piece out and does some damage with it. So many people have not gone down since Bill Clinton was in the white house.

At the end there is a right ol' bashing. Jolly good it was too. Even the Italians would be impressed, but I am not too sure about the Vietnamese, coz they really kick ass - in real life, with real guns mmm hai.

Reviewed by: resdog781
Date: 08/22/2000
Summary: what more can i say?

Chow Yun-Fat is the man, Ti Lung is the man, Leslie Cheung is the man, John Woo will always and forever be THE MAN. This movie is a classic. Gotta love those guns in the flowerpots.

Reviewed by: toto63
Date: 07/23/2000
Summary: just a melodramma?

a movie so rich of themes, iced photography and very deep and strongs caracthers.
tons of emotions, and a tragic plot!
Cool actors

Reviewed by: SUPERCOP
Date: 12/27/1999
Summary: The beginning of an era.....

The film that singlehandedly rejuvenated the faltering career of John Woo (who previously helmed smash hit comedies, such as the Ricky Hui vehicle From Riches to Rags), and gave Chow Yun-fat's stardom a new breath of life, in addition to another best actor trophy. Shattering all previous box office records, this top grade production features superbly edited action sequences, a stirring theme song, excellent characterization and strong melodrama. One of Woo's most heralded productions, this film influenced two sequels, countless ripoffs, and even started a brief fashion trend in Hong Kong. Unquestionably one of the most accomplished pieces by the director, this is a production that I cannot recommend enough.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

This is John Woo's first and maybe his best gangster film. Full of stunning action sequences and blood letting. Chow Yun Fat is cool as ever.


[Reviewed by Andrej Blazeka]

Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

First John Woo gangster film. A true breakthrough genre-founding movie. Sets up a lot of the themes, motifs and stylistic elements found in his later work.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A rousing melodrama centered around an aging gangster tornapart by loyalty to his kid brother, a rookie cop; and his life-long pal, a swaggering hitman. Director John Woo's love affair with automatic weapons fully blossomed in this awesome thriller.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Iconic, ground-breaking gangster film. I know two Hong Kong people who claim to have seen this over 80 times.

[Reviewed by Iain Sinclair]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999

John Woo's gun-happy melodrama about an aging gangster (Ti Lung) with split loyalties: his brother (Leslie Cheung) is a newly appointed police inspector, while his life-long pal (Chow Yun-Fat) is a counterfeiter. Flabby, technically a little rough by Woo standards, but distinguished by a trio of actors in career-making roles. And awfully melodramatic.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 6