The action set pieces are spectacular and every bit as well choreographed as the director's previous work, but it's the camaraderie among the main cast of characters thanks to heartfelt performances by Tony Leung and Jackie Cheung that really keeps you invested. Sentimental maybe; overemotional and overlong perhaps, but Bullet in the Head is a ludicrously entertaining and deeply affecting epic from beginning to end.
Just like “Full Metal Jacket”, brilliant first half (vivid description of young glass root life at 1960’s Shek Kip Mei) marred by so-so (by the auteur’s own high standard of course) second half (overblown, melodramatic, suspension of disbelief all over place – hiring no clues Hong Kongers at Vietnam? Even CIA won’t be that dumb…), but great film nonetheless.
An often overlooked film by John Woo mainly because it has the unenviable placement of being between The Killer and Hard Boiled. It continues Woo's themes of friendship, brotherhood, and loyalty and the action set pieces are some of his most impressive. Most notably the escape from a Vietnamese prison camp and the final confrontation could easily be considered some of Woo's best.
Who else but John Woo would crosscut the bicycle race with the car chase? Any other director would say, "No, that's too silly. The audience will laugh." Any other director would see sentiment as weakness and go boringly gritty, or undercut raw emotion with irony or sarcasm. That's a cop out. Only John Woo takes us where the narrative leads, even if it's off the edge of a cliff.
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.
Has a few missteps here and there which is likely due to it's severe edit from 3 hours down to two. Still, this is really Woo trying to break out into something new. It is an odd blend of his trademark action and heavy drama. And you don't forget it easily. Damn this is good. I still can't decide which ending is better. Hopefully JW can make films like his Hong Kong output again.
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.
Angry, desperate, and impassioned, this is John Woo screaming his masterpiece at us; it's a perfect cap to his glorious Hong Kong career. It's a shame this is largely unknown in the West. The scene with Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Jacky Cheung at the Vietcong camp is one of the most harrowing scenes I've ever experienced.