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A Better Tomorrow
Der City Wolf

Hong Kong 1986
produced by
Tsui Hark, John Woo for Cinema City, Film Workshop
directed by John Woo
starring Ti Lung, Chow Yun Fat, Leslie Cheung, Waise Lee, Emily Chu, Shing Fui-On, Kenneth Tsang, Tien Feng, Tsui Hark, John Woo, Kam Hing Ying, Shi Yangzi, Wang Hsieh
written by John Woo, Chan Hing-Ka, Leung Suk-Wah, music by Joseph Koo

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Ho (Ti Lung) & Mark (Chow Yun Fat) are bigshots in the counterfeit money business - unbeknowest to Ho's younger brother Kit (Leslie Cheung), who goes to police academy to one day become an officer. One day a deal goes wrong in Taiwan though, & Ho gets arrested when helping Shing (Waise Lee) - one of his underlings - to escape. As a warning not to squeal, the Taiwanese gangsters with whom Ho tried to make a deal, shoot his dad (Tien Feng). To avenge his friend, Mark wipes out the whole Taiwanese gang in return, but is seriously crippled when doing so ...

3 years later: Ho is released from prison to find a changed world. Kit wants to have nothing more to do with him, blaming the death of their father on him, Shing has climbed the career ladder of the counterfeit money organisation rapidly, now heading the organisation, while crippled Mark is kept there merely as a low-life maintenance worker. Ho decides to go straight to reconsile with his brother (which doesn't work out), taking a job as a taxi-driver at Ken's (Kenneth Tsang) taxi company that mainly hires ex-convicts, but his past continues to get back at him: First Shing offers him a job out of friendship as it sems, but as Shing & his men get more persistent & violent it more & more becomes clear that Shing either wants him back in to use the police connections Ho has through his brother Kit, or wants to see him dead because he knows too much. Kit meanwhile, who was actually after Shing's organisation, is both put off the case & denied promotion because of his brother, & now is more keen than ever to crack the case & arrest his own gangster brother. But Shing's men set a trap for him. At the same time Mark is badly beaten up & Ken's taxi-company thrashed. Now Mark & Ho decide to get back at Shing, first stealing the magnetic tape on which the matrix for forgeing dollars is stored, then proposing an exchange to Shing, while actually giving the tape to Kit's wife Jackie (Emily Chu) & tipping Kit off to the place of the exchange. It all ends in a massive shoot-out at the docks, during which Mark dies a heroes' death, the brothers are finally reconsiled, & Kit even allows Ho to shoot Shing when he tells them he will come out of all this unscathed ...

 

A great, fast-paced action movie & a milestone in Hong Kong cinema, since this movie - though not without predecessors - marks the official beginning of the generic Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed-genre (meaning basically [non-martial arts] action gangster movies), as well as bringing director John Woo's name finally to the map (he already had been a director of undistinguished martial arts movies & comedies for more than 10 years), & gave the career of former matinee-idol Chow Yun Fat a rather different spin. A Better Tomorrow was the first movie in which Woo could actually employ his very own style of action directing, which would combine gunplay routines created by Sam Peckinpah with concepts of martial arts-ballet (though no actual martial arts or ballet are involved) the Hong Kong film industry itself had perfected over the years, while telling stories that would combine concepts from Jean Pierre Melville's movies (most notably Le Samourai) with male bonding concepts from Woo's mentor Chang Cheh, while at the same time also borrowing from yakuza movies from Seijun Suzuki as well as Kinji Fukasaku. Over the next 5 years or so, Woo would turn out many great pictures based on this explosive mix before moving on to Hollywood & being degraded to turn out meaningless stuff like Mission Impossible 2.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD