A Better Tomorrow (1986) / Thriller-Action
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence
Running time: 95 min.
Cast: Leslie Chung, Chow Yun-Fat, Lung Ti, Emily Chu, Waise Lee
Director: John Woo
Screenplay: Chan Hing Kai, Leung Suk Wah, John Woo
Review published August 23, 1998
The marriage of John Woo (The Killer, Face/Off) and Chow Yun-Fat (Dream Lovers, City on Fire) in cinema is magic to behold, and although Chow has a smaller role than some of his later collaborations with Woo, the film is still exciting nonetheless.
The main plot is of two brothers on opposite sides of the law. The older brother (Yun-Fat) is involved in organized crime, but seeks to retire, not feeling right about the life he leads. This proves hard to do, and after a stint in prison, the old boss won't let him go straight, threatening the lives of the ones he loves. His younger brother (Cheung, A Chinese Ghost Story) has just made it to become a police officer, and isn't happy with the situation, blaming the older brother for the woes he's experienced, the least of which is the death of their father. Now it's cop vs. criminal to determine if blood is thicker than the law.
A staple in any Woo fan's diet, it may lack the operatic symbolism of Woo's later works, but the elements are all there. Effective uses of yin and yang plotting, good acting, heaps of style, and lots of action amid the drama add up to Hong Kong action heaven. Although clearly influenced by American crime cinema, A Better Tomorrow isn't always predictable and while the characters aren't three-dimensional, they are still exciting to watch when they interact. A good drama and hot action -- can't ask for more than that.
©1998 Vince Leo