A Better Tomorrow

From Academic Kids

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From riches...
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...to rags.

A Better Tomorrow (英雄本色; pinyin: yīngxing běns, Cantonese: ying1 hung4 bun2 sik1; literally The Essence of a Hero) is a 1986 Hong Kong action movie which had a profound influence on the Hong Kong movie-making industry, and later on an international scale.

Directed by John Woo, it stars Chow Yun-Fat, Ti Lung and Leslie Cheung. Although the movie was made with a tight budget and was relatively unknown until it went on screen due to virtually no advertising, it broke Hong Kong's box office record and went on to become a blockbuster in Asian countries.

A Better Tomorrow depicts mob violence in a romantically surreal fashion. Not only did the movie make Woo and Chow international stars, it started a whole new genre of films which followed its unique style of romanticized violence. One of its most famous followers is Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino, whose portrayal of the mob (e.g. Pulp Fiction) bears the distinctive John Woo trademark.

The plot is one that resonates well with audiences, especially in China. Two friends lead a carefree, immoral life, until suddenly it all comes crashing down. The two friends then take different paths, but ultimately they find that they must come together to set things right again. Despite its criminal content, A Better Tomorrow resounds with messages about morality, family, shame, responsibility, and forgiveness.

The film is a standout in a few ways: first and foremost, for the exceptional performance by the actors. In particular, Chow's portrayal of Mark Lee goes through a dramatic transformation from a stylish, cynical crook (Hong Kong teenagers took up the circular-shades-and-duster-jacket look for years) to a shamed, broken man with a dream to regain his dignity. His performance at times elevates the film from a pulp crime story to an emotional quest for understanding and dignity.

Secondly, it was the film that introduced most of Asia to the John Woo style, which includes tightly-choreographed violence and gunplay. It contains one of film's all-time great gun battles, one that is similar to a music video in style and concept.

Although almost 20 years have passed from the time A Better Tomorrow was made to the time of this writing, one can still find traces of its influence in Hong Kong action movies, even though Woo and Chow have long gone on to Hollywood for further advancement in their careers. Sadly, two sequels - A Better Tomorrow II and A Better Tomorrow III - of markedly lesser creativity and quality have somewhat tarnished the memory of the original standout.


Cast and roles include


  • John Woo (cameo), the director, is the Taiwanese police chief walking along the corridor of the bloodshed restaurant in slow motion.

See also

External Links




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