John Woo: from Hong Kong to Hollywood, the Killer and Face/Off

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John Woo: from Hong Kong to Hollywood, The Killer and Face/Off John Woo and his "heroic bloodshed" have revolutionized and rejuvenated the action genre, combining melodrama with action to create the male melodrama, in which he explores the codes of masculinity while redefining them. Robert Hanke says that "explosive pyrotechnics seem to be privileged over plot, narrative or character" (Hanke 41) and yet notes that Jillian Sandell maintains the opinion that Woo does not "celebrate this violence, but rather uses it to represent a nostalgia for a lost code of honor and chivalry" (Hanke 1999: 45). While characterized by violence, Woo's films define masculinity within a changing world. He does not set out to make violent films, defending …show more content…

Woo gives us a new kind of male protagonist, one that "combines physical violence and emotional intensity" (Hanke 1999: 39), visible from the start of The Killer. Jeff is introduced to us as cool and calm, casually shooting a room full of people. This expressionless killing is contrasted with the following scene which shows his wounds being tended to in a close up of his face that displays that pain and emotion that he is feeling. This opposition between violence and sensitivity is clearly demonstrated by the characters of Caster Troy and Sean Archer in Face/Off when they swap faces, and they must appropriate the characteristics of the other in order to survive, "the binary logic of either violent or emotionally sensitive is dissolved into both violent and sensitive" (Hanke 1999: 53). Similarly in The Killer, Li is a mirror image for Jeff, the only difference being a badge. Woo's films are based on these oppositions, particlularly good/evil, which is visible in the images he uses at the end of both films, the shootouts taking place in a church with slow motion action. On a wider scale he tries to reconcile the gap between past and present, trying to get back what is lost. Woo's Hong Kong films introduced a new hero, a new masculinity rather than homoeroticism, emphasizing male bonding and brotherhood, showing us that masculinity is "fluid and open to redefinition" (Hanke 1999: 56). This hero further evolves in the Hollywood produced Face/Off,

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