John Woo’s The Killer


Kenneth E. Hall

ISBN : 978-962-209-956-2

Film, Media, Fine Arts The New Hong Kong Cinema

January 2009

140 pages, 5.5″ x 7.5″, 16 b&w illus.

  • HK$195.00

A classic tale of loyalty and bloody betrayal, John Woo’s The Killer (1989) was centrally important to the growth of Hong Kong cinema in the 1980s and 1990s. It helped launch the international stardom of Woo and lead actor Chow Yun-fat, who plays a disllusioned hitman taking his fatal final assignment to help a lounge singer he accidentally blinded. Illustrating the film’s place in the chivalric tradition of Chinese and Hong Kong cinema, where cops and noble villains sometimes join forces in defense of traditional virtues and personal honor, Kenneth Hall documents the strong influence of Woo’s mentor Chang Cheh as well as Jean-Pierre Melville and other film noir pioneers. Hall also analyzes the film’s influence on other directors, including Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.

Kenneth E. Hall is Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages at East Tennessee State University. His landmark study John Woo: The Films, was published in 1999. He has also translated two of Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s major works: Mea Cuba (1994) and A Twentieth Century Job (1991) and published Guillermo Cabrera Infante and the Cinema (1989).

“Kenneth Hall has masterfully captured the career of Hong Kong director John Woo, as well as the production background, style and structure, and impacts of his cult film, The Killer. Succinctly organized, excellently researched with direct access to Woo, textually analyzed often from comparative angles, and fascinatingly written, John Woo’s The Killer adds another important dimension to the growing field of Asian cinema.” —John A. Lent, editor of Asian Cinema

“Kenneth Hall has written a remarkable and illuminating analysis of John Woo’s The Killer. He not only provides well-researched background information concerning the relationship of Woo’s early work to this film but also a significant argument for regarding the film as an Eastern contribution to the film noir style and genre. Hall reveals several similarities and differences with the work of Woo’s predecessor Jean-Pierre Melville as well as the way in which The Killer influenced the later work of Johnnie To. This is an outstanding contribution to Hong Kong film studies and cinema criticism in general.” —Tony Williams, Southern Illinois University