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on 14 May 2017
Exactly as advertised and arrived on time.
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on 3 June 2017
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on 9 June 2017
Haven't seen it yet but have high hopes!
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It's a common belief that John Woo lost his way when he moved to Hollywood, but in truth his career was always highly erratic even in his Hong Kong days. For every Better Tomorrow or The Killer on his resume there's at least one disappointment on the level of Bullet in the Head.

On paper Bullet in the Head looks like John Woo's most ambitious and under-rated film, but sadly it turns out to be an entirely derivative and largely ineffective shoot-em-up that blows its few good ideas in all the overkill. There's the germ of a good idea in its sprawling tale of three friends who skip the rioting Hong Kong of 1967 to make their fortune in the chaos of Vietnam, but it's quickly lost amid the cartoon carnage - this is the kind of film where Woo will add a bomb disposal man having his arms blown off to the background of a romantic parting, and that's one of the more subtle scenes. Clunking construction and wild leaps of logic abound (it's hard to take Jacky Cheung's cries of "Don't make me commit murder!" seriously after we've just seen him gun down thirty people) and the tragedy of Vietnam is reduced to the level of a video game in several over the top and largely uninvolving action scenes.

There are a few mildly effective moments, such as Simon Yam's memorable introduction, but the lasting impression is of a hack who has seen The Deer Hunter and The Killing Fields several times without ever really understanding them. Horrendously disappointing. No misjudged underappreciated lost masterpiece, just a mess.

The 2-disc UK DVD is packed with reverential features, although it's often hard to reconcile the great claims made with the film itself.
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Die xue jie tou (AKA: Bullet in the Head) is directed, co-written, co-edited and produced by John Woo. It stars Tony Leung, Jacky Cheung, Waise Lee and Simon Yam.

1967 and three Hong Kong friends leave behind a violent incident and aim to earn their fortune in war-time Saigon. Getting mixed up in the war because of their criminal activities, the friends encounter the Viet Cong and it sets off a chain of events that will change and shatter their hopes, dreams and lives forever.

It was originally planned to be a prequel to A Better Tomorrow, but with Woo falling out with producer Tsui Hark, he decided to rework the script into what is now Bullet in the Head. Taking inspiration from the Tiananmen Square incident, and no doubt nodding appreciatively in the direction of The Deer Hunter, Woo self financed the film and set about creating an epic. Which he did, an apparently 3 hour + epic that was promptly ordered to be sliced down into something more compact. What that means is there are a number of different cuts of the film available, depending how far you wish to pursue a cut that is. On release it flopped in its native country, but as Hong Kong cinema became popular in America and Europe, the film has garnered much critical praise, with some critics even proclaiming it the best Hong Kong movie ever made.

It's a deeply affecting movie, one that contains all the bullets and violent carnage so befitting its creator. And it finds the director at his most personal, most political and dealing high in morality. One can guess that the original cut would have been a near masterpiece of cohesion and emotional fortitude, as it stands now, it plays like two halves shunted together without any care for flow and substance. The first half plays out like a Woo gangster piece, characters are introduced, formed and get involved in bloodshed. Then it's on to Vietnam and the film starts to follow a distressing course, before we come full circle and Woo gets his sledgehammer back out to close with a bone crunching thud.

The action is superb, an assault on the eyes and the ears, with the cast providing an energy that's a joy to behold. While the emotional threads that Woo pulls at really are upsetting and hold the attention in a vice like grip. At times visceral and uncompromising, at others tender and panging the heart, it's very much a film operating on more than one front. But with that comes moments of alienation and snatches of incoherence, and that brings on the onset of frustration. The end result being a film that's essential for Honk Kong connoisseurs, but difficult to recommend to first timers looking for a Honk Kong starting point.

Ambitious, lively and emotionally sharp, it however isn't quite a satisfying whole. 7/10
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This is one I had been meaning to see for a while and it really was worth waiting for. It comes from cult director John Woo and was made in 1990, by which time he had garnered enough praise to be able to fund such an ambitious project. Set in 1967 it tells the story of three friends Little Wing, Fai and Ah Bee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai of `Internal Affairs' and `Hero' fame). They have sworn to be brothers and live life like 1950's street roustabouts who love a good `rumble' with the local ne'er do wells. This is set in 1967 so is more than plausible. Meanwhile a marriage is in the offing but a fight ensues with a rival gang and things spiral out of control. So the three friends decide to do a runner and make some money at the same time.

This is achieved by smuggling goods onto the black market in war torn Vietnam. Once they get there things do not pan out as expected and they find they need to come up with a `plan B' quicker than you can say `Viet Cong'! This then is really an action packed film that does not waste any of its two hour running time. It deals with a lot more than the criminal underside of Hong Kong's society; it also is about love, friendship, betrayal and revenge with a helpful dose of war thrown in. On the way we get some first rate action scenes with none of the money saving CGI malarkey, these are proper shoot outs and the guns do run out of bullets. It has some very strong and even disturbing scenes in it too so will not be for those who are easily shocked etc.

John Woo always gives value for money and this is no exception, the plot developments are not the `twist' type of thing but seem much more organic and therefore believable. It is far from Hollywood too so do not expect a Walt Disney ending. It is also in more than one language with very good subtitles. If you like Hong Kong crime flicks then this is one not to be missed and it has not lost any of its potency even after all these years, I can not recommend highly enough, but not one for the kiddies though.
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VINE VOICEon 22 July 2004
[Die Xie Jie Tou]

(Hong Kong - 1990)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Mono

Fleeing from a murder rap during the political turmoil of 1960's Hong Kong, three devoted friends (Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Jacky Cheung Hok-yau and Waise Lee Chi-hung) seek their fortunes in war-torn Vietnam and are ripped apart by greed and betrayal.

John Woo's ambitious movie - an operatic valentine to his youth in HK and his love of David Lean epics, and a response to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 - went over-schedule and flopped at the local box-office when released in 1990, but has since been recognized as one of the finest productions in HK film history. Newcomers Leung, Cheung and Lee are terrific as the three friends whose lives are devastated by the violence they encounter in a foreign land, and they're matched throughout by Simon Yam Tat-wah as the Eurasian hitman who rescues them from the worst of their experiences.

For all its explosions and gunplay, however, BULLET IN THE HEAD is a very human drama, played out against the vast backdrop of the Vietnam conflict, and invested with a palpable sense of love and compassion for its leading characters. Cinematography and editing are world-class, and Woo's dark-hearted script (co-written by Patrick Leung Pak-kin and Janet Chin) incorporates the themes of loyalty and brotherhood which have shaped and defined all of his films since A BETTER TOMORROW (1986). Cheung's final scene is absolutely heartbreaking; classic score by James Wong Jim and Romeo Diaz.
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on 7 April 2005
This movie is definitely one of John Woo's standout films of his long career. It features Tony Leung (Infernal Affairs), Waise Lee and Jacky Cheung on blistering form as three friends who flee to Saigon during the Vietnam war and try to make money from selling illegal goods, but soon are forced to make a choice based upon loyalty, friendship or wealth. Good action (not as stylish as 'The Killer') but is more realistic and brutal. Simon Yam also stars as Luke, a Eurasian hitman who helps the three make their money. Not for the faint hearted.
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on 25 September 2006
This is a must see. Being 19 and raised in England, I have seen loads of horror/action films but none of them makes you feel like this film would. Love, revenge, war, friendship and greed all entwined, mixed just perfectly. One reviewer mentioned that it's japanese, it isn't, it's chinese. The three friends and the person who joins them later on were the biggest chinese actors at the time. To most of you it may be just three/four chinese guys but they were the Samuel L. Jackson/Sylvester Stallones of the chinese film industry at that time.

Watch this film.
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on 8 November 2012
This is a fantastic Hong Kong film directed by John Woo. It is set back in 1967 in Hong Kong first and then Vietnam during the war in that country. John Woo is known for his action sequences and this film is no different. The film is about friendship and how simply it can be torn apart. A must see for those who like John Woo films. Its different to Hollywood action films in that there is actually a story going on surrounded by action sequences. If you want to buy this item I would advise you to do so from Zoverstocks - a great seller
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