39. Bullet in the Head

BulletInTheHead1There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to the best John Woo film. The first school is rather conclusive, and it’s The Killer. The second is a free-for-all. You’ll see The Killer later on this list, but whether or not it’s the topmost is part of the fun!

After I saw Bullet in the Head, I decided that, while not as structurally sound as The Killer, this was it. After the total weirdness of A Better Tomorrow 2 and the *inaudible* of Hard-Boiled, this was the best John Woo film. It had everything: the signature action — best in the business — and the manly melodrama.

God, that melodrama. There’s this one guy who’s the cool guy, the Han Solo sort of support role who steals the show. And he never dies! He keeps coming back, and you cheer every time.

There’s a weird part where they’re put in a prisoner of war camp, and forced to shoot each other. That part was weird and incongruous, and in fact the whole film doesn’t really compose a solid whole. It’s solidus, let’s say. But for ever prison camp, there’s a Han Solo guy, and slow-motion everything.

A good John Woo movie is a treat — a great one is a classic. This is one of those great ones, but while at the top, it’s noticeably weaker than his more known properties. He considers it to be his Apocalypse Now, and it’s more overtly political, and more ambitious in terms of scope, but whereas it was a miracle that Apocalypse Now comes together, no such divine intervention is spared for this one.

The titular bullet in the head is just as strange as it is random. I suppose it might be the anchor for the story, but what a weird way to go about telling that story. Which by the way is about friendship (manly friendship) and betrayal.

With John Woo there’s always this code of honor, where even a gangster and a cop can be ‘brothers’ if they operate by a code. That mythmaking reaches Bullet in the Head, but because the movie overall isn’t as lucid as the classically structured The Killer, it’s still kind of a wonder.

You have to more interpret theme from what’s going on. From the guys in suits and the explosions and the bullets. All the familiar elements, but they compose a rather alien product. Still, in those flashes, I see something brilliant.

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