The blog of author Dennis Cooper

John Woo Day


‘John Woo’s legacy in cinema history is already set – his operatic squib city odes to stylized violence established him as one of Hong Kong’s greatest action directors, influencing generations of filmmakers that followed. His success in Hong Kong allowed him to make the jump to Hollywood in the early 90s with Hard Target – a strangely beautiful yet completely insane movie. But Woo didn’t have total control over Hard Target. Due to racism, Paramount kept pretty tight control over the production, including having Sam Raimi supervise him on set.

‘In his next two American productions, Woo had more control. He also had his American Chow Yun-fat. Unfortunately for Woo, this turned out to be John Travolta. Their first pairing was in the nuclear warhead-heist film Broken Arrow, about which Rotten Tomatoes says: “John Woo adds pyrotechnic glaze to John Travolta’s hammy performance, but fans may find Broken Arrow to be a dispiritingly disposable English-language entry for the action auteur.” This will be something of a mantra when it comes to Woo’s Hollywood films – the action is poetry, but in service of hammy acting, bad scripts and disposable plots.

Broken Arrow was, however, a financial success which lead to Face/Off – perhaps Woo’s most delirious experimentation with his singular style in a Hollywood setting. In Face/Off John Travolta and Nicholas Cage famously play each other through the ingenious narrative device of literally swapping faces. This leads to a whole host of questions about the anatomical mechanics of such a swap, but one must bat away such thoughts and realize they have no place in a John Woo movie.

‘It’s just an excuse for Woo to fully indulge his trademark interest in doubling and foils and how the line separating police from criminals is thin and permeable. With both Cage and Travolta in this film – playing each other, no less – the acting is so over the top that it begins to flirt with performance art. This movie is loud, nonsensical, overwrought, highly stylized madness – it is perhaps the purest version of an American John Woo Hong Kong actioner brought to life. It was also a big financial success. If you can give yourself over to the insanity and let the experience wash over you, I suppose you might call it an enjoyable film.

‘Building on this momentum, Woo was then given the keys to one of America’s sacred franchises: Mission Impossible. Woo brought his philosophy of action to Mission Impossible 2, with a big budget and a Tom Cruise. The reviews were again familiar: “Your cranium may crave more substance, but your eyes will feast on the amazing action sequences.” Of course it made a lot of money, but it was also nominated for 2 Golden Raspberry Awards and I vividly remember watching it in the theater when I was a teenager and thinking it was fucking stupid.

‘Woo was carving out a niche in Hollywood as a master of big dumb action – but his films lacked substance, they lacked the qualities that would elevate them beyond genre pulp. And for John Woo this was important. His Hong Kong films have been the subject of huge amounts of critical analysis. They are considered by scholars and movie-goers not just as empty action spectacle, but something much more profound, literate and artistic. I never bought that argument, but it has a lot of currency for a lot of film geeks. I think it is clear from his Hong Kong films that John Woo is a master stylist, but when the action is not the focal point his films are actually pretty bad. And the critical response to his first Hollywood films reinforced that.

‘In 2002 Woo tried to pivot by helming Windtalkers, a World War II epic about Navajo code talkers. Finally, he had ditched the empty action films about cops and robbers featuring hammy performances and big easy dumb themes coasting on spectacle. This was a Very Serious Movie about the human condition and war and dignity and marginalized people. Woo talked about it as if the film would open a window into life’s mysteries, how “friendship redeems violence.” And here is the critical consensus from Rotten Tomatoes: “The action sequences are expertly staged. Windtalkers, however, sinks under too many clichés and only superficially touches upon the story of the code talkers.”

‘Woo cannot escape the inertia of his talent as an action director. “Windtalkers simply feels like a mismatch for his trademark style,” wrote one critic. It bombed at the box office, and it didn’t earn any of the critical praise he was looking for. The middling box office and reviews for 2003’s Paycheck starring Ben Afleck put the nail in the coffin. Woo’s style just wasn’t elevating these films. If anything it took an intriguing concept drawn from the work of Phillip K. Dick and made it less interesting with “meaningless chases, shoot-outs, and explosions.” For the last decade or more John Woo has been back in Hong Kong and China turning out films that are both financial and critical successes again.

‘So does this mean that John Woo was ultimately a failure in Hollywood? Many of his films were financially successful, but he clearly never had the cultural and intellectual impact in Hollywood that he did in Hong Kong in the 1980s. Maybe that is because by the time he got to Hollywood, his style had already been aped by American directors like Quentin Tarantino.

‘Or maybe it’s simply because John Woo is an impeccable stylist who can control the visual flow of a film like it’s a three dimensional object, but has never given much thought to plotting, character, dialogue and acting. These weaknesses existed and were obvious in his Hong Kong films, but were ignored because of the other stuff he was doing. They were laid bare when he started making Hollywood films and this ultimately prevented John Woo from having the kind of deep and lasting impact in the United States that he was probably hoping for.’ — James Guild





John Woo @ IMDb
John Woo @ instagram
The Essential Films of John Woo
The Films of John Woo and the Art of Heroic Bloodshed
10 Wild John Woo Action Scenes That Prove He’s a Legend
John Woo @ MUBI
John Woo: 5 Reasons Why He’s One of the Greatest Action Directors of All Time
The History of Cinema. John Woo
Children Caught in Crossfire: John Woo and a Global Affective Cinema
These Filmmakers Influenced John Woo’s Directorial Style
Attending the John Woo Masterclass
John Woo @ Letterboxd
Gun-Fu Hustle: Celebrating the action cinema of John Woo
The Poetic Violence of John Woo: How the Director Makes Action So Intense
Cover story: Director John Woo
How John Woo changed Hollywood’s history of violence
There are Action Directors and Then There’s John Woo
John Woo and his influence on action cinema



JOHN WOO Fantasia Career Achievement Award Video

John Woo Documentary

Botch – John Woo

The Life and Films of John Woo – Auteur Theories


Interview (1994)
by Jillian Sandell


Why did you decide to move to Hollywood, and how do you find life in the United States?

My family and I enjoy it here very much. We do not plan on going back to Hong Kong for a while. For me, it has always been a dream to work with different people from different cultures. I can learn so much more. That is what I aspire to do – always keep learning. When I stop learning, than I become stuck in the same old thing. I can never do that. I must always keep growing … That is what keeps the spirit in my films.

What kinds of opportunities are available to filmmakers in the United States that are difficult or unavailable in Hong Kong?

In Hong Kong it was much simpler to make a film. The studio knew me and my work. There weren’t any interferences or interruptions from them. I have a good reputation with them and even if my projects went over budget, they always made money from them. Also, the studio is never allowed to see any footage. Just the final print. There is a lot of great talent there. But not really enough. It is also very difficult because we didn’t have all the resources available. We couldn’t afford the best or the most expensive. However, we always made it work. Even the most difficult shots. We had a great spirit. In Hollywood, there are so many games, meetings, and politics. It is not that they do not have confidence in me, but it is just the way the system is. I do, however, enjoy working here very much. There is so much dedication in this business. I am constantly impressed by the hard work and talent that are making films in the United States. From the producers, actors, and even the crew – everyone is devoted. The goal is to make a good movie. For instance, in Hong Kong it is not unusual for an actor to work on several movies at the same time. Here everyone is very focused, once you get past the countless meetings and start making a movie. What I also didn’t realize until I came to Hollywood was what great support I had here and abroad. I have so much support and friendship from the studios, writers, and producers. I think I appreciate this above all.

Do you think you would have continued to make your films in the way you would like in Hong Kong after 1997?

In 1997, I think things will become even more limited. There will not be as much freedom for creativity or speech. I am not so concerned with “luxury living.” What I’m asking for is to have creative luxury. That is most important to me. Creativity is very limited in Hong Kong. Films there must either be action or comedy. There is not much support for artistic films. It is also impossible to do anything political. Since the topics are so limited, it is not a very creative environment. When I began to receive offers from Hollywood, I decided it was a good opportunity for me to learn more about techniques from filmmakers here.

How do you feel about the success of your films in the West?

In 1989 The Killer was shown at the Toronto Film Festival. It got a lot of attention from critics and received great reviews. Cinephiles loved my film. I was so surprised! I had not been to a film festival before and was unaware how many fans and friends I had. Then in 1990 The Killer was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and received more attention. Only this time it was from the film industry also. Filmmakers, studios, and producers all became interested in my style and action technique. From that film I gained a lot of friends and received tremendous support. Both of which I am constantly surprised and grateful for. While A Better Tomorrow was made in 1986 and was a huge success in Asian countries, it was not a Western film. For me everything started in the West with The Killer.

Many of your films star Chow Yun-Fat. Do you have any plans to work with him again?

When I first met Chow Yun-Fat, I only knew him as a popular television star. His movies were not very successful. Before A Better Tomorrow, I never knew him directly. When we did the casting for A Better Tomorrow, I had in my mind’s eye what I wanted. I wanted a modern knight. Someone with a real personality and human qualities. I read in the paper that he did a lot of work with orphans. This is what I was looking for. A strong man with a good heart. The image he portrayed to me was one of Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood, Alain Delon, or Humphrey Bogart. I can see all of these characteristics in him. I was not disappointed when I met him in person. He has a natural ease and unique talent. It is very important to me that the script enhance the actor’s own experience and characteristics. In this case, it was very easy to do. Whenever I travel, in the United States or abroad, everyone is always inquiring when we might work together again. He is very busy right now doing promotional work for his film Treasure Hunt. He also has two more films to fulfill his contract in Hong Kong. Currently we are looking for the right project to introduce him to the audiences in the United States. Maybe in 1995 or 1996.

You have mentioned in other interviews that you are antiviolence, yet your films make violence seem so beautiful. How do you reconcile the seductive appeal of violence with its very real destructive power?

As a child, I was raised in the slums of Hong Kong. I saw too many people killed in disasters and by gangs. Growing up in the slums is like growing up in hell. In the ’50s and ’60s, there were riots, and I witnessed people killed by police right outside my own door. I also was very active during the Vietnam War. On the one hand, I so admire those men who went away to fight for their country. But also I was very against war, killing, and fighting… in any respect. I always dreamed of a better world. Another place where there is no violence and only peace and love exist. I have seen enough violence. In actual life, I hate violence! But the world is not like I dreamed; there is violence and crime everywhere. My ideal is that there is always some sort of justice. Violence is defeated. In my films, the heroes use their strong will and discipline to combat the violence and injustice. It is through the violence that I show the real qualities of a human. And I have always thought of my action sequences as more like a cartoon or a unique musical that is carefully choreographed. My characters have a code of honor and loyalty. Life is so precious, and I want to show this. My kind of hero is chivalrous. Asian or western, these ideas can be understood. They are universal. Violence is not the only thing. There is something more in human nature and in the human spirit. I believe it is goodness and loyalty. My hero possesses these qualities but he is always misunderstood. My heroes are lonely and tragic, like myself I see myself as lonely and tragic. Of course, it is hard to be lonely with so many friends!

Many of your films do have this recurring theme of the lonely and tragic hero. Do you think it is, in some way, a theme that is particularly meaningful in Hong Kong, or can it apply to other cultures and people?

I have always wanted to explore the common point among people through films. Different people walk different paths. Each has a different culture, background, and thought, but I believe there are some things that are universally common. We all want to believe there is justice, love, morality, and beauty in this world. I always worshipped the chivalrous behavior of ancient knights, the loyalty of the Samurai spirit and the French romantics. A real knight should come and go like an autumn leaf He does not look for recognition. It is unimportant to him that those around know of him. Only his actions are important. He will sacrifice everything, even his life, for justice, loyalty, for love and his country. His life is like a cloud, it could disappear in an instant. I think there is something beautiful about this. Even if there is only one beautiful moment in life – it is worth it just for that moment.

Do you feel like you have had to make any compromises since moving to Hollywood, or that you may lose some of your individual style?

I believe that rather than a loss of individuality, my acceptance in Hollywood now gives me the freedom to express my own personal style. My films are like my children. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses and I love each one of them individually. I treat my films like an artist and his painting or a writer and his poem. I think of how the poem will be written or a painting painted. How the story is told is important. With the acceptance of Hollywood, I now feel that I will be able to incorporate my own sense of film and art into my next project.

There are rumors that you will direct the next Star Wars film. Is this true?

No, I am afraid it is completely false! Although it would be an honor to work with someone as talented as George Lucas.

So what are you currently working on?

Currently we are in preproduction at Twentieth Century-Fox. It is a story about five Americans who (due to circumstances beyond their control) become stranded in the Amazon Rainforest. Each has to battle the elements and their own weaknesses to survive. I am very excited about this project. There are things that will be quite challenging for me – the rainforest, underwater scenes, crocodiles, and thousands of extras! We are also planning a project based on a story by me called Full Circle. The director Michael Cimino will be writing the script. The project will have a similar style to The Killer.


21 of John Woo’s 44 films

Accidentally (1968)
‘John Woo’s experimental short film, made during his time in college. The line between genuine love and violent obsession is blurred when a man falls for a girl and proceeds to tie her up with rope to him, making her follow him around and bend to his whims until tragedy ultimately befalls them both.’ — Letterboxd

the entirety


The Young Dragons (1974)
‘John Woo’s first picture is a bit uneven, but there are already some of his trademarks like a friendship between two men on opposite sides of the law. Woo had already figured out how to make smoking look impossibly cool and the score occasionally has a weird Morricone Goes Hawaiian vibe.’ — Krautsalat



Hand of Death (1976)
‘Largely uncharacteristic and mediocre, John Woo’s early Wuxia feature film, HAND OF DEATH (the Chinese title literally means Shaolin Gate), suffered from the generic tropes and stereotypical characters in a lacklustre vengeance mode. The entire plot of killing the villain, the Shaolin betrayer Shih Shao-Feng (James Tien), is driven by a sense of righteousness and ethnicity (the Han Chinese being oppressively ruled by Manchu people in the late Qing Dynasty) that is built on passionless foundation, whilst the uncharismatic hero, Yun Fei (Doran Tan), and his teammates, including Jackie Chan in one of his early major role as Tan Feng, transpired to be monotonous and uninspiring. The fighting choreography is, as expected, quite solid, and it’s delightful to see a young Sammo Hung carrying bulging fake teeth as Shih Shao-Feng‘s henchman. There’s not much John-Woo style developed yet, the use of quick zoom-in and slow motion could very well be learned from Chang Cheh when Woo worked under him as an assistant director.’ — knk



Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979)
‘With this tale of two swordsmen who team up on a mission of revenge, John Woo attempted to revive the moribund wuxia genre. A flop at the time of its release, this early work has since been recognized as an artistic breakthrough in the Hong Kong action maestro’s career. Though the period trappings and swordplay set LAST HURRAH FOR CHIVALRY apart from Woo’s most famous films, the gorgeously stylized violence, graceful camera motion, and thematic emphasis on a code of honor among men laid the course for his bullet ballets A BETTER TOMORROW and THE KILLER.’ — The Criterion Channel



Plain Jane to the Rescue (1982)
‘Totally bonkers, showing Woo’s gift for editing and sharp eye, Josephine Siao is in peak form (and Siao is a treasure the world should appreciate more), one of Ricky Hui best parts, somehow manages to gets more nuts by the reel. By far, Woo’s best pre 1986 film.’ — Filipe Furtado



Heroes Shed No Tears (1986)
‘This movie is notable as being John Woo’s first gun-fight movie. It is an extremely brutal and nihilistic war movie, at times more gut wrenching than BULLET IN THE HEAD. The movie centers around a small group of mercenaries who are sent to capture a drug lord in the golden triangle. The body count is massive and the action is unrelenting. Although it lacks the finesse of the director’s later movies it has some brilliant scenes such as a swamp fist-fight against the manhunters, a torture scene straight out of a H.P. Lovecraft image, a hilarious gambling scene, and a sniper shot in the eye through the scope.’ — Azzy



A Better Tomorrow (1986)
‘After an up and down decade as a director for hire in the last days of the Shaw Brothers, working alternately in the wuxia and wacky comedy genres, John Woo finally hit it big in 1986 when he teamed up with Tsui Hark and the Cinema City studio to remake Patrick Lung Kong’s 1967 drama The Story of a Discharged Prisoner. One of the most influential films of the past 30 years, A Better Tomorrow established the formal and thematic template for a new era of crime movie: everything that has followed, from Woo’s follow-up masterpieces The Killer and Hard-Boiled to the triad films of Johnnie To, to myriad international imitators, has in some way been a response to it. Its impact on the Hollywood film has been less specific but no less real: raising the stakes of athleticism and complexity in action sequences, the bullet ballet being much more adaptable to the limited physical skills of American actors than Jackie Chan’s kung fu.’ — Sean Gilman




A Better Tomorrow II (1987)
‘This film was originally over three hours in length and the studio balked at Woo for its length. The film was then cut down to two hours and forty minutes so John Woo & Tsui Hark (the producer) had to cut the film separately under a very limited period of time due to pressure from the studio and distributors to trim the film down to get more screenings in cinemas. Therefore, the film had suffered terribly causing Woo to disown it.

‘The problem is that Woo was given a very short time to edit the film and to make matters worse both Woo & producer Tsui Hark had clashed as to how the film should be made so with Tsui being the producer, he had equal control with the editing of this film along with three others (Woo being the fifth editor). Woo didn’t even know who was editing what. Needless to say, the editing makes the film incoherent, incomprehensible, inconsistent, inane and insane (not to mention irresolute); which is really a shame as if it was left uncut, it could have been a classic.’ — Joseph Kuby




The Killer (1989)
‘Hong Kong’s preeminent director, John Woo, transforms genres from both the East and the West to create this explosive and masterful action film. Featuring Hong Kong’s greatest star, Chow Yun-fat, as a killer with a conscience, the film is an exquisite dissection of morals in a corrupt society, highlighted with slow-motion sequences of brilliantly choreographed gun battles on the streets of Hong Kong.’ — The Criterion Collection


the entirety


Bullet In The Head (1990)
‘“Bullet in the Head” stands out of John Woo’s rich repertoire as not being just a standard bullet-ballet flick. It is not as fast paced as “A Better Tomorrow” or as spectacular as “Hard Boiled”. Nevertheless, the film’s primary asset is a human drama set against the background of a harrowing military conflict. John Woo’s reinvents the “bromance formula” known from his other films by turning it into a war epic similar to Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”. That is not to say that the film is simply a melodrama. “Bullet in the Head” is filled with magnificent action set pieces (nightclub shootout) and wonderful David-Lean-like sequences involving large crowds of people (riots scenes evoking Tiananmen Square incident or Vietnam exodus scene). However, the real show stealer is the final battle sequence involving the characters played by Tony Leung and Waise Lee.’ — Oliver Ebisuno




Once a Thief (1991)
‘After what until then was his most ambitious and serious film, John Woo reunites with Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun-fat in a caper comedy about a trio of brilliant but sometimes clumsy thieves who must steal a painting they have already stolen after being betrayed by their former boss. The humor never reaches the same level of slapstick as the director’s heist comedy Money Crazy, but leans more towards a campier humor, typical of Hollywood at the time. This may be why, of all his films, this one was remade five years later by the director. Additionally, the action scenes, especially the fight sequences, as expected, are well executed, despite none achieving the same level as other work of this and past decade.’ — Rafael Jovine



Hard Boiled (1992)
‘Violence as poetry, rendered by a master—brilliant and passionate, John Woo’s Hard Boiled tells the story of jaded detective “Tequila” Yuen (played with controlled fury by Chow Yun-fat). Woo’s dizzying odyssey through the world of Hong Kong Triads, undercover agents, and frenzied police raids culminates unforgettably in the breathless hospital sequence. More than a cops-and-bad-guys story, Hard Boiled continually startles with its originality and dark humor.’ — The Criterion Collection


the entirety


Hard Target (1993)
‘Woo has said in many interviews that he preferred making films in the U.S. as opposed to Hong Kong, but his first experience wasn’t without its unpleasantries. First: the endless meetings and levels of bureaucracy before shooting could begin. Second: the star system, whereby Van Damme could, for instance, insist that one camera be dedicated to capturing closeups of his oiled biceps. Third: Universal was worried enough about Woo’s capacity to handle an American crew that it hired Sam Raimi to shadow him on set, instructing him to step in and take over if the director faltered. (Instead Raimi would become Woo’s fiercest defender, even getting into a shouting match with execs to defend his autonomy.)

‘The film performed well at the box office, debuting to $10.1 million, good for No. 2 behind The Fugitive, though reviews were mixed (The Hollywood Reporter‘s critic, Duane Byrge, was into it, however, calling the film “mesmeric” and even praising Van Damme’s acting — twice). But 25 years later, the film’s main legacy is its massive action set pieces — including a finale that plays out in a burning warehouse full of retired Mardi Gras floats — which introduced American audiences to the Hong Kong style of munition superabundance and showcased what the father of “gun-fu” could accomplish when given a big budget and all the cameras, jibs and cranes he desired.’ — Pete Keeley


HARD TARGET (1993) – The Making Of


Broken Arrow (1996)
‘Broken Arrow, though it’s often better conventional entertainment than Woo’s earlier films, lacks most of the campy mannerisms that made them so singular.’ — Jonathan Rosenbaum




Face/Off (1997)
Face/Off finally delivered on the promise of Woo in Hollywood, with a story that was big and crazy enough to facilitate something on the level of those earlier movies. It’s also conspicuous among his US films in referencing Hong Kong cinema and culture most directly, specifically his earlier triumph with The Killer. 25 years on, Face/Off looks like the only moment when it was possible to bottle the John Woo lightning and turn it into a truly effective American blockbuster. It’s a film that is fun, stylish, and stupid in equal measure. If Woo’s overall Hollywood output is disappointing – just one memorable film to show for ten years – then his amazing Hong Kong catalog is there to be discovered by any fan of action cinema looking for another taste of A Better Tomorrow II or The Killer.’ — Andrew Taylor




Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
‘Audience reactions tend to run the gamut on the first three Mission chapters, though all three have their defenders. Brian De Palma’s dazzling 1996 re-imagining, which kick-started the whole thing, almost feels quaint compared to everything that came later. There are not many times when one could think to call De Palma’s film work “quaint”; this would be one of them. Mission: Impossible III is a weirdly turgid, fairly by-the-numbers espionage thriller, given a boost by a convincingly sinister Philip Seymour Hoffman, making the most out of a rare, scary, albeit underwritten villain role (an unconventional Magnolia reunion with Cruise, one could argue).

‘Then, of course, there is the delirious, high-flying Mission: Impossible 2, arguably the most misunderstood installment in the entire series. It’s a film that put Hong Kong action legend John Woo in the franchise driver’s seat after the wacky one-two punch of Broken Arrow and Face/Off. This sequel is filled with plenty of the action maestro’s signature gonzo touches, including cartoon gunplay, smoldering matinee idol chemistry, and yes, doves. It’s a big, bold, ridiculous blank check of a film, where deep-seated emotions are expressed via bone-breaking physical action, and the climax does not involve the fate of the world hanging in the balance, but merely two hunks on motorcycles duking it out for our viewing pleasure.’ — Nick L.





Windtalkers (2002)
‘Ten years before this film, John Woo was at the cutting edge of popular cinema. At the height of his career in Hong Kong, the action film Hard Boiled (1992), starring the charismatic Chow Yun-Fat, dazzled his devoted fans with its bold mixture of thrills, emotion and cinematic experimentation. The generic formulae for action and comedy were not all that Woo had mastered by then. His excursion into historical war drama, Bullet in the Head (1990), showed Woo in a more ambitious vein, emulating his idols such as David Lean and Akira Kurosawa.

‘But then Woo went to America. None of the films made since his relocation (Hard Target [1993], Broken Arrow [1996], Face/Off [1997], Mission: Impossible 2 [2000] and Paycheck [2004]) are entirely bereft of pleasing Woo touches. But he has been unable to regain the vanguard position he had in world cinema at the start of the ’90s.

Windtalkers rates among the saddest hours I have spent at the movies in recent years. Not because of its content, but because of the low point to which Woo has sunk. In some senses it is the smoothest American film he has done, one which actually figures out a comfortable place for his vision as an ethnic and cultural outsider. But this comfort comes at a high price. There is hardly a single scene or shot in Windtalkers that exhibits the style which once made Woo’s work so exciting.’ — Adrian Martin



Paycheck (2003)
‘A rubbish script, terrible acting from all concerned — including, I regret to say, Uma Thurman — and Woo’s action histrionics uneasily confined to science lab interiors, all conspire to produce a movie of utter redundancy.’ — Neil Norman



Red Cliff (2008)
‘After 15 years in Hollywood and making only one decent film (Face/Off) John Woo returns to his Asian roots. Here he get the creative independence he deserves and creates the most successful (and most expensive) ever Chinese film.’ — freemantle




The Crossing (2014)
‘A two-part disaster epic depicting a 1949 shipwreck that’s been nicknamed “the Chinese Titanic,” John Woo’s “The Crossing″ is handsomely mounted but tortuous. Crisscrossed with romantic trials and survival stories during the Chinese Civil War, the film holds considerable cultural interest, yet its plotlines are too dispersed to achieve either historical insight or human depth, losing emotional traction in favor of bombastic war spectacle.’ — Maggie Lee


The Crossing – Interview with the Director John Woo


Manhunt (2017)
‘It’s always possible that John Woo could have played the doves straight. The Hong Kong director behind action classics like Hard Boiled and A Better Tomorrow (and later American action movies including Face/Off and Broken Arrow) has turned the image of doves flying across the screen during a firefight into a signature trope, suggesting the end of innocence and the arrival of chaos. But his latest, Manhunt, has a moment when a careening car approaches a dovecote filled with birds ready for their big moment. And that moment doesn’t read as portentous and tragic, like the dove sequences in Woo’s The Killer or Mission: Impossible II. Instead, it reads like a conscious in-joke for savvy audiences — especially when the car circles the cage teasingly before slamming into it and sending the doves across the screen.’ — Tasha Robinson





p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Your first link didn’t make it through. But that Cristina cover is very weird. Huh. ** Mieze, Wowzer, indeed! Hey! Thank you for catching me up. Yeah, but what’s mundane really, you know? One person’s mundane is another person’s drug-fueled orgy. Or maybe I’m just trying to romanticise my own dedication to the seemingly mundane. Anyway, if it took a proverbial power saw to cut through to wherever you are, it’s gotta be a special place. I’m so sorry about your brother, but, yeah, I’m happy that you guys reconnected. Man, life is weird and can too frequently suck. Next year! It’s almost a date. And I will squire you to the finest locales I know. France is talking about those power cuts too in the vaguest possible ways, so I wonder. They already turn the lights really dim in supermarkets here on overly hot days, which is kind of almost fun. I will endeavour hard to have a lovely weekend — it’s not impossible — if … if you do too, Deal? Hope I’ll get to see you again before too, too long, here and in 3D. Love, me. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Well, it’s only fair since I was in that rabbit hole that you should be in it too. Anyway, not a bad hole really. Nah, it’s like your usual Xmas fair kind of thing, just small and unusually exotic. Yury got home last night so hopefully he’ll snip away my stitches without too much damage today. I’m so ready for Halloween, so very nice love, not to mention an excellent prop idea. I’m hunting for prop ideas for the haunted house in our film. Love making everyone in the world wear a gorilla costume for 24 hours, G. ** Misanthrope, Ah, so my blog’s QAnon filter is working! I think I only like apolitical conspiracy theories, which means none of recent vintage. Oh, shit, you got the Co. I hope it’s as flyby and meh as most current Co-afflicted people seem to be containing. Sorry, man. Um, if David took the top of your espresso machine into the bathroom to play around with it I sure hope you sterilised the fuck out it. Good and good feeling weekend to you! ** _Black_Acrylic, That Pynchon update looks plausible, although,  with his presumed high-ish income, I think he might have had his teeth fixed by now. Wow, it seems like the English Premier League restarts all the time. Great! Go Leeds! Like supersonic go! ** Bill, Age is a boner killer. Well, unless you’re into wizened daddies, and lots of people are, god knows (why). Eek, glad you survived the server snafu. Lord. While I highly hesitate to distract you, I will make an exception for a possible Alex von Warmerdam day from you, yes, selfish and possibly lucky me. Thanks, Bill! ** Nick Toti, Hi, Nick! I saw your email in my box upon waking but I was insufficiently coffeed-up at that point to dare to open and understand it, but I’ll score it today, and thank you, whatever it is. ** Steve Erickson, Well, I know that since I made the post a couple of the missing guys were found to have been long dead. There are a couple of cases out there of found guys where their real faces and their speculative faces are compared, and the guesses were basically in the ballpark. I’m glad you’ve found things you like in the gig. I don’t know if Wendy Eisenberg has another band. I’ll go check. Well, I basically pay no attention to popular/mainstream stuff unless people point me towards something, and I mostly just keep up on experimental releases, and, even so, it’s quite a task to keep up with. And then Robert Pollard releases something or other about three weeks, and that’s a full time job in and off itself. I’m sorry to hear about your rough day. Do you just wait those hopefully brief periods out, or is there a fix? ** Right. John Woo used to be so great, and here’s a weekend-long Day for you to use to to indulge in his best and least best work if you’re so inclined. See you on Monday.


  1. Dominik


    A good hole to share indeed, haha – that missing persons hole.

    Fingers ultra-massively crossed for a smooth and bloodless stitch removal today!

    Really? What’s the main idea? I mean, what kind of props are you looking for? Or are you completely free to pick anything that catches your attention?

    I do hope my gorilla costume comes with some kind of inner air conditioning unit because it’s 38 degrees here today, haha. Love attending a completely pointless and forced-polite family gathering instead of me tomorrow, Od.

  2. Jack Skelley

    Yay. Woo Day. thanks! Love these ultimate stand-offs where it’s 2 vs 10,000. See you soon!!!

  3. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Hahaha, the QAnon filter! I think I told you I went down one of those rabbit holes on Twitter a couple years ago. Yeah, wasted 2 hours of my life. It was fascinating, the mental gymnastics and all, but yeah…hahaha.

    I’m much more into the alien conspiracy theories and all those than the government ones. Still don’t believe them but they’re much more interesting to me.

    Yeah, my mom and I have the ‘ro. Pretty sure David does too. No need to test him at this point. Seems that on Monday, per our CDC, I’ll no longer be contagious and can get out and about. I might just hit the grocery store.

    So far, we’ve been fortunate to not be that bad off at all. I hope I didn’t just jinx us, hahaha.

    Hope your weekend is swell. Think I’m going to relax some more, watch some tennis, maybe a movie or two, who knows what else?

  4. Russ Healy

    Good framing of the work of John Woo. I was in a popular culture coma during many of the years his films were more prolific. I avoided any films which featured Cruise or Travolta. Snob? Maybe. The savage art of age regressions reminded me of a roommate I once had. He would collect the milk carton kids in the 80’s (probably not his original idea). One day he bragged that he had an Etan Patz ‘card’ which would one day be a collector’s item (nothing on eBay today). I just finished “Wrong,” the critical biography of your work. What an incredible read. It provided me with insights into your work, artistic anarchy, the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s, Queer Theory and what draws me to transgressive art and fiction. Also gave me the courage to post on your blog. I’m curious if you received the email I sent you with the paper I wrote about Laura Albert. Upon reflection, the last thing you probably want is to be reminded of that awful episode. Hope you are staying cool!

  5. _Black_Acrylic

    I’ve had a longtime fondness for big dumb action films and those 90s John Woo creations really hit the spot.

    The good news is that today Leeds United kicked off the season with a 2-1 victory. Even better, my tech-savvy brother showed me how to watch the game live on my iPhone which made it a most enjoyable experience.

  6. Mieze

    Dedication to the mundane is very, very underrated, I’ve found. That should be some kind of of manifesto slogan?

    Hope the weekend has been good… it’s so much cooler here today (23 degrees) with a wind blowing to make it even cooler, so I hope since you’re just a country over, you got some relief too. Warm regards from Switzerland.

  7. David Ehrenstein

    Woo Hoo!

  8. l@rst

    Face/Off is truly manna from heaven. What a fucking movie!

  9. Bill

    Hope the stitch removal goes smoothly, Dennis.

    I’ve only seen Woo’s action films. I agree with James Guild; great visuals, but I don’t get the deeper analyses.

    On aging, I have to say I’m pretty enamored with the rare boyish older guy who’s carried it well. But they’re rare.


  10. Steve Erickson

    I went back up on my meds and felt much better today. That suggests it was withdrawal. I’m not sure what to do in the long run, but for now I’m staying on a higher dose.

    I have never seen PAYCHECK or WINDTALKERS, but RED CLIFF was pretty good. BULLET IN THE HEAD really stands out in Woo’s filmography: hyper-violent but rather agonized by what it’s depicting. If it hadn’t been a commercial failure, he might’ve had more films like it. I once rented the R-rated version of THE KILLER at Blockbuster by mistake, forgetting that it got an NC-17 in the US; that cut edited out every single drop of blood while keeping all the gunshots.

    “Bigfoot really came from a UFO, and alien sightings are connected to him” is a fun theory.

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