Monday, May 3, 2010
#8: The Killer
I had watched The Killer years ago on VHS, and like far too many Chinese films released on the thankfully now-archaic format, the color quality and subtitles were basically shit. And that's all before you take into account the pan-and-scan, which took Woo's best strengths, his framing, lens-usage, and operatic action, and made them almost unrecognizable.
So I was glad to take this opportunity to have another look at the film, this time on blu-ray. Unfortunately, the rights were taken away from Criterion years ago, and it's really a shame, because while this copy is light years beyond what I watched on VHS, it's still a pretty embarrassing showing for the format of the future. The transfer seems to be almost completely untouched. I doubt they did anything but upres the print they already used for DVD, and the thing looks pretty much like it might have in 2000 on a DVD player. I'm not nearly an expert on video quality (and my TV is only 720p), but this looked like junk even to my untrained eye. Why won't these shitty companies have a heart and give the films back to Criterion, where they would be cared for and given the treatment they deserve?
Anyway, the film itself is a masterpiece of Hong Kong action, an almost non-stop array of shootings and car chases that wallows in its own excess in the way only an 80s film can do. I prefer Hard Boiled (which I actually own), but this film clearly sits next to it as the one-two punch that cemented Woo's legacy as one of the great action directors ever (I also love Face/Off, btw, which of course referenced the climactic dove/church shoot out in its own final fight). If you like action movies, this is as essential as it comes.