A Better Tomorrow

A Better Tomorrow (Chinese: literally: “True Colors of a Hero“) is a 1986 Hong Kong crime film directed by John Woo and starring Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun-fat.[1]

Although it was produced with a tight budget and was relatively unknown until it went on screen (due to virtually no advertising), it broke Hong Kong’s box office record and become a blockbuster in Asian countries. The film would have a profound influence on the Hong Kong film-making industry, and later on an international scale.[1]

And although Ti Lung was the film’s lead actor, co-star Chow Yun-fat’s breakout performance out-shined him, solidifying the latter’s status as one of the top superstars in the Hong Kong film industry. Chow’s character “Mark Gor” was imitated by many fans even decades after the film’s release.[1]

John Woo established himself as one of Hong Kong’s premiere action directors with this ultra-hip, ultra-violent action classic. The film centers around the complex relationship between two brothers: Sung Tse-kit (Leslie Cheung) is a recent graduate of the police academy while Tse-ho (Ti Lung) runs a massive counterfeiting ring along with his gangland associate, Mark Lee (Chow Yun-fat). Tension between the two brothers comes to a head when their father is murdered after a crime deal goes sour and Tse-ho lands in jail after being double-crossed. In perhaps the most influential scene in Hong Kong cinema in the 1980s, Mark avenges his friend by staging a dinner table assassination. As Mark tries to shoot his way out of the restaurant, pulling a series of hidden pistols from potted plants and alcoves, he gets horribly injured. With both founding members of the counterfeiting syndicate incapacitated, the operation falls into the hands of Shing (Waise Lee Chi-hung), Tse-ho’s former underling who has little of his boss’ élan or experience. When Tse-ho gets out of jail, he reunites with his now-crippled comrade, Mark, to take out Shing and to protect Tse-kit whose life is in danger for investigating their former subordinate.

By Jonathan Crow, Rovi[3]

Up until the 1980s Hong Kong action films were almost always variants of wuxia (period martial arts films featuring swordplay) or the more globally ubiquitous kung fu films that made stars of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

That all changed, though, when John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow stormed theaters in 1986. Woo sought to break from the clownish kung fu films that were being churned out at the time by Shaw Studios and create stories that were realistic and mired in the seedy world of the Triads, Hong Kong’s notorious organized crime gangs.

With Tomorrow, and later the action classics The Killer and Hard Boiled, Woo ushered in the age of “gun fu,” marrying balletic movement with furious gunplay and utilizing techniques that are now considered action cliches such as slo-mo, tracking shots and the actors wielding two guns.

By Abid Rahman[2]

When this film was made in the 1980’s Hong Kong cinema was dominated by wushu films and bizarre swordplay movies involving people flying around and other acid flashback inducing scenarios. John Woo was a young director who had done a string of martial arts films, comedies, and musicals. In 1981 he split from Golden harvest and joined Cinema city, after a couple of comedies, He directed the modern day action film “Sunset Warrior” and it was held on the shelf and not released. After the failure of “Sunset Warrior” he was sent to Taiwan and directed another two comedies. Returning to Hong Kong, Woo had always wanted to make a modern day gangster film. Teaming up with friend and producer Tsui Hark, they made a film that would inspire countless films for years to come. Casting Chow Yun Fat who was mainly a television actor as one lead, an old school Kung Fu actor in another and a singer in the third lead role, it was a risky venture which paid off. The script is great featuring lines such as “Do you believe in God?” “sure i’m one, you are, a god is someone who controls their own destiny”. There is strong characterisation of the characters, aided on by perfect performances from the actors, The action choreography was excellent and inspired virtually every film made involving guns ever since. It makes you realise that the only thing “the matrix” didn’t take from this film and it’s sequels is the plot.

19 August 2002 | by Josh Fowler (Sheffield)[4]

Short and sharp, it keeps moving fast enough that a few stray details are of no consequence even though it’s noticeably slower than what came after. The first of many times I would needlessly ask: Why would you wear a white suit to a gun battle?!!

[1] wikipedia.org. A Better Tomorrow. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
[2] hollywoodreporter.com. When John Woo’s ‘A Better Tomorrow’ Introduced “Gun Fu”. Published at 8:03 AM PDT 3/15/2016 by Abid Rahman. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
[3] Rotten Tomatoes. A BETTER TOMORROW (2010). Retrieved 15 November 2017.
[4] IMDb.com. A Better Tomorrow (1986). Retrieved 15 November 2017.

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