When three longtime friends (Tony Leung, Jacky Cheung and Waise Lee) become involved in the death of a rival gang member, they are forced to leave Hong Kong in order to escape the police. Their only ticket out is a free ride to Saigon working as smugglers on the black market. But it is the late 1960s and, with Saigon embroiled in the madness of the Vietnamese war, it’s very much a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When their plans to double-cross a local gangster and steal a box of gold from him go awry, the men find themselves captured by the Viet Cong and accused of working for the CIA. Incarcerated in a prisoner of war camp, their loyalties are tested to the very limit when one of the trio sets about betraying his closest friends… –IMDb
The first Asian filmmaker to helm a major Hollywood feature, John Woo initially emerged as the leading light of the Hong Kong action renaissance of the late ’80s. Celebrated for his unique, much-imitated style: a Molotov cocktail of graceful slow-motion sequences, staccato edits, freeze-frames, and dissolves; Woo brought a new depth of emotion and visual beauty to the action genre, perfecting an operatic, highly stylized brand of mayhem laced with melodrama, savage wit, and homoerotic undercurrents. Woo was born Wu Yu Sen on May 1, 1946, in the Guangzhou Canton Province of China, his parents relocating the family to Hong Kong three years later to escape life under communism. The Woos were quite poor, and were homeless for several years. His father, a philosopher, was later hospitalized with tuberculosis for over a decade. It was his mother who introduced Woo to the cinema, where he fell under the sway of American musicals and the films of the French New Wave, with Jean-Pierre Melville… read more
John Woo's unparalleled masterpiece is a head-on collision between "Rebel Without A Cause" and "The Deer Hunter." This is a nostalgic look back at the turbulent 60's and what I imagine was John Woo's own teenage years in Hong Kong, as well as a painful exploration of man's inhumanity against man. It's a testament to Woo's talents as an artist that he is able to film much of the violence utilizing his trademark fluid style, without "Bullet in the Head" ever once feeling like Vietnam exploitation.
despite missing leading-man, Chow Yun-fat, this is one of Woo's best films. it's initial impression lowers one's guard to expect a simple tale a friendship, a John Woo staple in and of itself, but as the story progresses and ends, the viewer is given an experience not unlike Apocalypse Now or The Deerhunter. Woo's take on the Vietnam conflict is defeinitely more Woo, but no-less visceral than it's counterparts.
All said and done, Woo's best film. The gunplay is as elaborate as any of his films but the weight of the violence is something more prevalent here than the rest of his work. Its insane how Woo transcends so many by the books American genres (coming of age, gangster, war) and is still capable of packing such and emotional punch makes for one of the most brutal takes on 'the hero's journey' in cinema. Masterpiece.