10,000 Bullets   Exploring the world of Cinema from the Arthouse to the Grindhouse™

John Woo 
Written by: on April 17th, 2004
John Woo

Yusen Wu (AKA John Woo) was born on May 1st, 1946 in Guangzhou, China. He grew up in Hong Kong where he began his career as an assistant director in 1969, working for the Shaw Brothers. He directed his first feature The Young Dragons in 1974 and has been prolific ever since. He would work in a variety of genres, but it wasn’t until A Better Tomorrow (1986) that established him as a master of stylized action set pieces, better know as heroic bloodshed that would forever cement his place in Hong Kong films. A Better Tomorrow would mark the first collaboration between John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat they would go on to make A Better Tomorrow 2 (1987), The Killer (1989), Once a Thief (1990) and Hardboiled (1992).

After the success of The Killer (1989) John Woo was offered several deals in Hollywood. He would remain in Hong Kong for a few more years. In 1990 John Woo would direct one of his most personal films A Bullet in The Head, a film about friendship and brutalities of the Vietnam War. In 1993 he would finally leave Hong Kong for Hollywood and his first film Hard Target would be his first failure in years. Hard Target would be tampered with by its star Jean-Claude Van Damme and Universal the films producers. What was left after all the tampering was a film that looked nothing like a John Woo film.

A trademark he has adopted since making films in the U.S. is the use of doves as a symbol for peace in his films. Since coming to Hollywood John Woo films have to achieve the success he once had in Hong Kong. His strongest U.S. film to date is 1997’s Face/Off which employs like many of Woo’s films, slow motion/freeze frames and the Mexican standoff involving two characters pointing guns at each others heads. Other recurring motifs through out Woo’s Career, Scenes of hyperkinetic choreographed action, Characters often use a gun in each hand, Characters are often alerted to danger by seeing a reflection, One character throws a gun to another character and his characters often mimic the actions of other their counterparts, typically accompanied by flashbacks of those scenes. John Woo may never regain the status he once held in Hong Kong here in the U.S., still his legacy of films that are bold and have set many standards for future filmmakers.


Red Cliff (2008)
Stranglehold (2007)
All the Invisible Children (2005)
The Robinsons: Lost in Space (2004)
Paycheck 2003
Windtalkers 2002
Mission: Impossible II 2000
Black Jack 1998
Face/Off 1997
John Woo’s Once a Thief 1996
Broken Arrow 1996
Hard Target 1993
Hard-Boiled 1992
Once a Thief 1990
Bullet in the Head 1990
Tragic Heroes 1989
The Killer 1989
A Better Tomorrow II 1987
A Better Tomorrow 1986
Heroes Shed No Tears 1986
Run Tiger Run 1985
The Time You Need a Friend 1984
Plain Jane to the Rescue 1982
Laughing Times 1981
To Hell with the Devil 1981
Hello, Late Home comers 1978
Last Hurrah for Chivalry 1978
Follow the Star 1978
Money Crazy 1977
From Riches to Rags 1977
Hand of Death 1976
Princess Chang Ping 1975
Fist to Fist 1974
The Dragon Tamers 1974
The Young Dragons 1974
Accidentally 1968
Dead Knot 1968

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