Bullet in the Head (1990)
Reviewed by: Waiguoren99 on 2002-07-10
Summary: Woo's best and most uncomfortably violent film
In 1967 three buddies from Hong Kong, Ben (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), Frankie (Jacky Cheung), and Paul (Waise Lee) get into trouble after Ben's marraige. Their need to escape from justice sends them to war - torn Vietnam as smugglers. After meeting Luke (Simon Yam), a suave ex - CIA agent, they steal a chest of gold bullion from the local triad boss and his South Vietnamese Army cronies. While trying to escape they are caught and tortured both physically and mentally by the North Vietnamese. The gold becomes both a testing ground for the friendship between the three young men and the vehicle for betrayal and tragedy.

This epic, John Woo's most uncomfortably violent film (especially the scenes from the Viet Cong prisoner - of - war camp), is often compared to THE DEER HUNTER. The script is very well constructed both as a complex character study as well as a study of the effects of greed and violence on the human soul. The level of that violence is stunning, but each scene of violence ties to the next, and all are critical for their eventual psychological effects on each of the three men. The acting by all three principals is outstanding, with special mention for Jacky Cheung. More often seen in comedy roles, his portrayal of a man in the extremity of pain and despair is searing. This is one of Waise Lee's best and most complex performances. Simon Yam, more famous for psychopathic characters, is wonderful. And as one of the great chameleon actors of our times, Tony Leung Chiu-wai's performance as Ben anchors the film. Woo's directing is, as expected, faultless. The violence is meant to be terribly distressing; if you can cope with that, this is a superior film, not to be missed. Five out of five.
Reviewer Score: 10