Relatively unknown to the West, A Better Tomorrow may prove to be John Woo's most important film in his directing career. Prior to A Better Tomorrow, John Woo films caters to Hong Kong's film market which was mainly into kung-fu films and comedies. Although a risky move, producer Tsui Hark had enough faith in John Woo and help produced his first gangster picture.A Better Tomorrow turn out to be a huge success, reviving John Woo's directing career and introduced the "heroic bloodshed theme" to Hong Kong cinemas. A Better Tomorrow also made actor Chow Yun Fat a superstar who was considered a "box-office poison" before his awarding-winning performance as noble gangster Mark. As with Bullet In The Head
A Better Tomorrow story also contains a lot of the director's own emotions and experience and indeed the tender brotherhood relationship between Ho and Mark is actually a reflection of the friendship between director Woo and producer Tsui Hark.
A Better Tomorrow tells the tale of two good friends, Sung Chi Ho(Ti Lung) and Mark Lee (Chow Yun Fat) who are also partners in a couterfeit money syndicate.Ah Ho is planning to quit the syndicate because his younger brother is unaware of his criminal status. Ho accepts one last deal in Taiwan but warns his friend Mark to stay behind to watch over the syndicate. In Taiwan, Ah Ho is betrayed and soon gives himself up to the police while back home,his father is murdered by a rival mobster. Three years passed and Ah Ho is released from prison.His brother, Ah Kit blames him for their father's death and refuse to believe that his elder brother has turned a new leaf.Mark is reduced to a janitor and hopes to reclaim his place in the syndicate with Ho.Soon,Ho is torn between his loyalty to his friend and his relationship with his brother.
Although not as internationally well-received as The Killer or Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow remains as my third favourite John Woo film. The action sequences may not be as stylised as Woo's later pictures but solid acting by the lead actors is the film's strongest film. The lead actors in the film gave notable performances mainly Chow Yun Fat who gave the performance of his life as the noble gangster Mark. Chow bring life into one of the greatest characters in action cinema, a fully-freshed out action hero which had more depth than any action hero in a Hollywood or Hong Kong film. Indeed, Mark was cool not just because of the Alain Delon sunglasses or the designer trenchcoat but because he firmly fights for what he believed in and end up giving up his life for it as well. Chow despite sharing equal screen time with other lead actors Ti Lung and Leslie Cheung is flawless in every screen of the film. Of course, the star of the movie Ti Lung also gave a notable performance as Ah Ho. Torned between his loyalty to his friend Mark and a need to reconcile with his brother, Ah Kit;Ti Lung made his character look convincing. In one of the movie best moments, Ah Ho meets up with his younger brother Ah Kit for the first time after their father's death and Ah Kit, being a hot-head is unable to given his brother and instead beats him. Ah Ho didn't return any punches and tries his best to ask forgiveness from his younger brother. Set against the backdrop of raining street, this scene was played out wonderfully and clearly shows the director's strong believe in brotherhood and friendship.
Passionate and heart-felt, A Better Tomorrow remains as one of Woo's most admired work.