The Killer: Revisiting John Woo’s Best Film

In the pantheon of movie assassins with hearts of gold, Chow Yun-Fat, as the title character in John Woo’s The Killer , is at the top of the list. It’s no stretch to say that without Chow Yun-Fat and John Woo’s run of heroic bloodshed action ballets in the late eighties/ early nineties, movies like John Wick wouldn’t exist. In fact, Keanu Reeves’ sharply dressed killer was directly inspired by Chow Yun-Fat in this film. In it, he plays a smooth assassin whose conscience gets the better of him when he accidentally blinds a young nightclub singer (Sally Yeh) in a shootout. Determined to pay for a pricey operation to restore her sight and leave his violent life behind, he finds extricating himself from the underworld isn’t easy. Along the way, he finds an unlikely ally in a hard-bitten cop (Danny Lee) who, at first, is bent on taking the hitman down but eventually sympathizes with his plight.

While influential, John Woo’s The Killer isn’t without influences of its own, which we get into in this examination of what we believe is Woo’s best film. Written and narrated by Chris Bumbray, with editing by Ric Solomon, in this video, we explain how Woo’s career was at a crossroads in the late eighties and how this helped pave the way for his eventual move into American movies. We also examine how Chow Yun-Fat became iconic and why we think The Killer narrowly edges out Hard-Boiled as Woo’s best film. We also examine how the film had come close to being remade many times, with various screenplays intended for people as varied as Richard Gere, Denzel Washington, Lupita Nyong’o, Omar Sy and many others floating around out there.

Do you think The Killer is John Woo’s best film and Chow Yun-Fat’s most iconic performance? Let us know in the comments!