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Blood Brothers Review


OK
John Woo turns up as a producer of Blood Brothers, and it's not too surprising since the film is a reimagining of an earlier Woo effort, Bullet in the Head, which has a similar setup and plot points. Both films track the adventures of three friends from the boonies who seek to make it in the big and dangerous outside world but get much more excitement than they bargained for.

While Bullet in the Head is set in Vietnam during the war, Blood Brothers takes us back to the glamorous nightclubs of Shanghai in the '30s. Feng (Daniel Wu), Kang (Liu Ye), and Kang's brother Hu (Tony Yang) decide to leave their poor village and venture into town to see what they can make of themselves. It's rough going at first, with the guys taking on menial and humiliating jobs such as rickshaw pulling, but Hu lucks out by landing work as a waiter at the gorgeous Paradise Club, where all of haute Shanghai comes to party and to pay homage to the crime bosses who run it. The star of the show: Lulu (Shi Qi), who's the plaything of the big boss but is secretly in love with Mark (Chang Chen), one of his bodyguards.

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Face/off Review


Excellent
It's hard to remember the whooshing sighs of disappointment from his fans that greeted John Woo in 1996 when, after so many half-steps and mis-starts, he made his big Hollywood debut with the stolen-nuke thriller Broken Arrow. Having left the Hong Kong business on a high with 1992's psychotic near-parody Hard Boiled, Woo did a Jean-Claude Van Damme flick -- 1993's Hard Target, which was heavily botched by studio interference but still contained some brilliant work -- before deciding to go seriously Hollywood. For Broken Arrow, he toned down his trademark mix of ultra-violent flourishes and teary-eyed humanism to concentrate on doing a by-the-book mid-'90s action flick that was generic in the extreme but raked in the money. The next year, though, Woo proved it had all just been an extraordinarily canny maneuver to allow him to make Face/Off, possibly the greatest, and definitely the most exuberant, action film to come out of the studio system in that decade.

A schizoid doppelganger mind-bender wrapped around your standard ticking-bomb scenario (it's hidden somewhere in Los Angeles and could take out the whole basin if detonated -- or something), Face/Off is an utterly lunatic film in the best possible way. Originally a futuristic thriller, the script was retooled for a modern-day setting, keeping several of its sci-fi elements but focusing more intently on its personality-shifting aspects which seemed to come straight out of Woo's international breakthrough, The Killer. An FBI agent, Sean Archer (John Travolta) has been hunting jet-set super-criminal Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) for years. For Archer, it's gone beyond personal to haunted obsession, particularly after Troy tried to shoot Archer but missed and killed his son instead. After a gonzo opening sequence involving a Humvee/private jet showdown on a runway and about ten thousand expended rounds (mostly fired by people flying sideways in slo-mo, of course), Archer's team brings down Troy.

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Paycheck Review


Weak
Sci-fi fans will see clear similarities between John Woo's action/thriller Paycheck and Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall (1991). Both deal with memory and identity, as adapted from stories by author Philip K. Dick. Both star thousand-watt Hollywood celebrities (Ben Affleck here, Governor Schwarzenegger in Recall) in roles that ask little from them. And, most disappointingly, both shun an intellectual and sturdy drama that would fit the subject matter perfectly, choosing action and cornball dialogue instead.

"My life is nothing but highlights," confesses Mike Jennings (Affleck), a genius computer hacker who trades big cash for small chunks of his own memory. Jennings gets rich by dissecting massive programs and passing the goods onto rival companies - at which point, all recent activity is erased from his brain.

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Windtalkers Review


Extraordinary
Action is John Woo's middle name. After directing frenetic flicks such as Mission: Impossible II, Face/Off, and Broken Arrow, I knew we would get enough bombs, blood and broken body parts to give his WWII drama Windtalkers an accurate feel. But the film is about more than good gore; it has tremendous heart, too.

During the war, the Japanese were masters at stealing and translating the codes used by U.S. troops to communicate messages to and from the front lines. There was a huge loss of life as a result of these interceptions. In response, the Marines recruited Navajos to act as code talkers, and used their intricate tribal language as a new, unbreakable code. Woo's Windtalkers is an intense and emotional look at the critical role the Navajos played in the United States' success in the war.

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