8:00 PM, 26th February, 1999
An assassin of righteousness kills a powerful gangster. Such is life in Hong Kong. Same rich gangster has a revenge fund of $100 million dollars for the man who kills his killer. That's somewhat more unusual, and attracts a lot of attention: from assassins vying for the money, to the gangster's son and the gangster's accountant, to the police and the killer himself. Fu (Jet Li) is an up and coming assassin, who decides that this would be enough money to retire and build a house for his mother. However, he can't get into the conference until Ngok Lo (Eric Tsang) steps in and offers to work as Fu's agent; although he's more of a shyster than an agent for assassins. Luckily, he actually seems to have a lead on the killer...
Even subtitled, this movie has a unique style to it. Although billed as a comedy, there's action a plenty, as well as comedy of a cinematic kind such as some interesting slow motion sequences of totally non-dramatic scenes, and a pair of guns that start as a John Woo now-you're-in-for-it, but end up more like an Indiana Jones now-we-run. Of course, Jet Li is outstanding in his fight scenes, especially against the requisite tall thin American fighter (Paul Rapovski). The only letdown, at least in the version I saw, was a profusion of white suits to hide the white subtitles. Just some advice, try not to sit next to anyone Cantonese unless you read fast, 'cause it's annoying when they laugh before you've read the punchline.
10:00 PM, 26th February, 1999
The Killer is the story of a hitman (Chow) who falls in love with a night-club singer (Yeh) he has accidentally blinded while saving her life. He agrees to take "one last job" to pay for an operation to restore her sight, but is double-crossed by his employer and finds himself on the run from both the Triads and a cop (Lee) who might be his only hope for escape.
The film's screenplay is credited to Woo (although producer Tsui Hark has claimed the credit) and it explores many of his favourite themes; the bond between honourable men in an amoral world, the inner turmoil and need for redemption of good men who can't escape doing evil, and the fragility of "good". Needless to say (this being a Woo film), the larger-than-life characterisation is reflected in enormous and elaborate gunfights that leave American action movies for dead.
This is widely considered Woo's masterpiece. His 1992 film Hard-Boiled works better as a pure action movie, but The Killer is probably the better film. The bond between Chow and Lee is better realised than the similar one between Chow and Tony Leung Chiu Wai in Hard-Boiled, and the inclusion of a love interest allows Woo to really go over the top with the film's high melodrama, romance and spectacular action - Titanic with guns.