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BULLET IN THE HEAD

Production Notes
After ending his partnership with producer Tsui Hark, John Woo would go on to direct one of his most powerful film, Bullet In The Head. Originally written as a prequel to A Better Tomorrow, the script was turn down several times before Tsui Hark finally announce that he will direct A Better Tomorrow III himself. John Woo then, re-wrote his original draft to make it a story of friendship between three childhood friends as well as a tribute to the Tiannamen Square Massacre.
Prior to release, the film received a frosty response from preview audiences and director John Woo subsequently removed the film's original ending (which ended with Ben and Paul in the boardroom).Going back into production, Woo shot an entirely different ending, one which features Ben and Paul battling in their cars through the streets of Hong Kong. Most versions of Bullet In The Head carries the car jousting ending while the boardroom ending can only be found on the VCD version of the film.

Storyline
Bullet In The Head revolves around three childhood friends: Ben, Paul and Frank and how the war would should change their friendship. Among the three friends, Ben (Tony Leung) is the most idealistic of the three,a simple man with simple needs while Paul(Waise Lee) is the most materialistic one, constantly in pursue of money and power. Frank,(Jacky Cheung), is a very sympathetic fellow who rarely receive any love from his parents and finds comfort from his two good friends.
At the start of the film, Ben was about to get married with his sweetheart. Being poor orphans, they naturally don't have that kind of money to pay for the wedding banquet so Frank goes to borrow money from a loan shark. On his way back to the wedding dinner, he bumps into a local gang led by Ringo who wanted to steal his money.
Proving once again that friendship is important, Frank fights off the gang and returns to the dinner with the money and a bleeding head. Ben soon learns about the incident and the two goes off to settle the score with gang leader Ringo. During the fight, Ringo is accidentally killed, forcing Ben and Frank to flee from Hong Kong. The two along with their good friend, Paul leaves for war-torn Vietnam to seek fortune there, not realising that it would prove to be their biggest mistake.
Their friendship would be put to the ultimate test as the three are forced to play a fierce game of survival in order to stay live in Vietnam. Paul, blinded by the greed soon turn against his two friends and even shoots Frank in the head.

Review
Bullet In The Head is one film that "hits" the audiences hard in delivering it's message on the brutality of war and it's effects on people. Director John Woo delivers some of the most impressive shoot-outs I have ever seen. The shoot-out at the night-club is breath-taking but there's more in store, particularly the intense shoot-out at the army base.
Bullet In The Head firmly cements John Woo reputation as the world best action director though the film fail to be a box-office success in Hong Kong. However, the film's strongest point does not lie in it's action sequences but rather it's dramatic storyline and fine performance by the lead actors.
Pop-star Jack Cheung particularly surprised me with his wonderful performance as innocent Frank.You really can't blame the guy for taking drugs as it's the sole thing to help ease the pain inside his head. Tony Leung was wonderful as usual given his great acting talent as Ben. In one of the movie's most touching moment,Ben meets up with Frank for the first time after the war and is hurted to see his friend in so much misery. It's a amazing how Tony can express so much hurt and sympathy through his facial expressions without having to say much. These are the qualities of a truly great actor, the ability to convey a message through facial expresions rather than words. However I was a bit disappointed with Waise Lee(Paul) following his impressive performance as the villain Shing in A Better Tomorrow, I expect more from him. His performance as Paul is wooden and at times, unconvincing. But John Woo's excellent directorial skills help make the character Paul a bit more believable.
The scene where Paul is sinking as he holds on to the chest full of gold clearly indicates how low his moral values have sink and the line he uttered " I already consider myself dead so it doesn't matter if you shoot me, I just want the gold" hints that the original Paul may already be dead.
Regarding the debate between the two endings of the film,I think that the boardroom ending is a better ending to the film. Having watched over two hours of torment going to Vietnam and back, director Woo really can't expect the audiences to sit through another action set-piece and the boardroom ending really allows the two protagonists to settle their dues quickly. However as a scene by itself, the car-jousting is one amazing action set-piece and certainly one of Woo's better action sequences. The intensity between the two protagonists are equally match with the frantic car jousting and certainly make the recent motorcycle jousting between Ethan Hunt and Sean Ambrose in Woo's Mission:Impossible 2 look a bit tame. The car jousting scene also reveal a bit more about the character Paul as it shows that he is still "haunted" by Frank. This is evident in the scene where he hear helicopters in his head and at one point actually "talks" to Frank's skull. The scene where Ben tenderly held onto his "friend",Paul after the final gunshot and letting out a scream is priceless and certainly showed the character's empathy for his friend compared with the "lost" look on his face during the boardroom ending.
Dark and disturbing, Bullet In The Head is not easily forgotten and deserves to be viewed by anyone who considers himself or herself a John Woo fan.

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