Thursday, 30 August 2007

Bullet in the Head (1990)

Bullet in the Head 1990This is another good example of John Woo's heroic bloodshed subgenre that sets in the Vietnam war.

I don't like the name 'heroic bloodshed', not so much because I didn't coin it, it's because I find 'modern wuxia' is a better description. One that points to its source of inspiration.

1st thing 1st, what is wuxia? 'Wu' stands for 'martial' (as in 'wushu' meaning 'martial arts'), and 'xia' is, for the lack of a better English equivalent word, 'chivalrous knight'. Someone like Zoro of the Old California, or Japanese samurai. They lived by a strict code of ethics: righteousness, brotherhood, loyalty, justice, duty and last but not least, chivalry. Brotherhood don't apply to either Zoro or samurai as they're loners. But brotherhood is 1 of the most important characteristics in the Chinese classic Water Margin where I think this whole wuxia and most of Woo's movies are based on. Guess what? Water Margin is sometimes translated to call Outlaws of the Marsh, or All Men are Brothers. This last translation is very clear what's the Chinese classic is all about.

All that could be seen in this action flick.

This isn't my most favourite of Woo's movie in the 'modern wuxia' subgenre. As if a few guns in the city of HK isn't sufficient, this movie takes them smack bang into the battlefield during of the height of Vietnam War in 1967. If you're in the camp of the more guns and pyrotechnics the merrier, then you'll love this to bits. I'm more in the less-is-more camp. But I do like this movie for the illustration of Woo's modern wuxia - they risk their lives to rescue the girl simply because it's what a xia does - rescuing damsel in distress (distraught, actually).

Perhaps, 1 can argue that 'heroic bloodshed' and the 'modern wuxia' is different, but both exist in this movie. 'Heroic bloodshed' emphasises brotherhood above all else, while 'wuxia' emphasises the chivalry aspect. Ok, I can live with that. I'm not going to be pedantic about it.

Like Deer Hunter, this movie unfairly paints the VC as some sadistic monsters who take great pleasures in torturing their POW. This is done to increase shock entertainment values, and develop the characters in the stories.

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