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Die xue jie tou
Die xue jie tou (1990)
  • Director:
    John Woo
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Janet Chun,Patrick Leung
  • Cast:
    Tony Chiu-Wai Leung,Jacky Cheung,Waise Lee
  • Time:
    2h 16min
  • Budget:
  • Year:
In 1967, on the way to the wedding of a friend a young man is accosted by a local gang member. Later, the three friends administer justice, in the process of which the gang member is killed, so they leave Hong Kong to avoid the police and the gang. They run black market supplies to Saigon and get embroiled in the war, being arrested as Viet Cong, then later captured by the Viet Cong, and find that their friendship is tested to the limits as they try to escape.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung Tony Chiu-Wai Leung - Ben / Siu Bun (as Tony Chiu Wai Leung)
Jacky Cheung Jacky Cheung - Frank / Fai Jai
Waise Lee Waise Lee - Paul / Sau Ming
Simon Yam Simon Yam - Luke / Lok
Yolinda Yam Yolinda Yam - Sally Yan Sau Ching
Chung Lin Chung Lin - Mr. Y.S. Leong
Fennie Yuen Fennie Yuen - Jane / Siu Jan
Kan-Wing Tsang Kan-Wing Tsang - Jane's father
Hang Shuen So Hang Shuen So - Jane's mother
John Woo John Woo - Policeman
Hee Ching Paw Hee Ching Paw - Ben's mother
Tseng Chang Tseng Chang - Paul's father
San-Yan Siao San-Yan Siao - Mr. Shing
Paco Yick Paco Yick - Ringo (as Tin Hung Yee)
Yun Pei Yun Pei - Frank's mother

Die xue jie tou (1990)

John Woo's original cut of Bullet In The Head was over three hours long. Much like he was forced to do with A Better Tomorrow 2 (1987), Woo reluctantly re-cut the film down to little over two hours long running time. But, as Woo himself confirmed, the version of the movie that was premiered in Hong Kong the day before it was actually released was 2 hours and 35 minutes long. It was decided this version was still too long, so all the prints of the film had to be re-edited and delivered back to the cinemas all over Hong Kong by the next day. Even after all the re-edits that movie already had, many other different cuts of it were made due to local market/censorship, which is why even today there are many different versions of the film with different running times.

Since it had been radically cut down, there are some still photos of the film, which indicate that entire subplots have been removed from the film, which aren't even referenced in the final cut. On one such photo, you can see Tony Chiu Wai Leung's face in bandages, his girlfriend standing near him. This is from a subplot in which Ben gets his face burnt with acid by a rival gang. Some of the other cut scenes also include cuts made on some of the more violent scenes in the film.

Hong Kong trailer for the film shows some alternate takes and edits of some scenes and three deleted scenes; During the Vietnam protestation sequence one protestor is being clubbed to death on the head by members of the Vietnamese troops while blood is gushing out of his head, infamous deleted scene where Ben, Frank and Paul are forced to drink urine after Mr Leong suspects them of wanting to take Sally away from him (this scene was actually mentioned by Chow Yun Fat's character Mark in A Better Tomorrow), and extra part of the Bolero action sequence where Frank who is armed with two pistols is shooting at a long array of Vietnamese baddies who are standing in the corridor.

Some versions of the film also include alternate shorter ending which doesn't ends with Ben chasing Paul in the car and two of them having a shootout, but instead in this alternate ending Ben kills Paul in the boardroom after he shows him Frank's skull and tells him what happened to him.

John Woo secretly hoped that as soon as he got to Hollywood, he would acquire the rights to his old films (including Bullet) and put back in all the things that he was once forced to cut. But when he tried to do so, he was told that all the material he had cut, hadn't been preserved, but instead wandered straight into the garbage bin.

However, some time later Woo created what would become known as "the festival print" which was the longest version of the movie seen since the original Hong Kong premiere and was 136 minutes long and it included the infamous urine drinking scene. It has been illegally released on a bootleg VHS.

Another 135 minute version released on DVD has been sold to the public legally. It is distributed by Joy Sales; this ultimate 2 disc-set edition has seamless branching which can be shown in its Theatrical Version, Alternate Ending version and the Festival Print version but the deleted scenes maintain a blue tint (possibly from the chemicals of the film reacting badly) and also frame jumping (film preservation done too late by the director himself).

Like John Woo's previous film, El asesino (1989), this did not do well in Hong Kong because audiences didn't like the allusions to the Tienamen Square massacre during the riot scenes. Woo was deeply affected by the massacre and felt badly that he touched such a raw nerve in people, but at the same time he felt the Chinese people should react and not hide from it.

In order to get a much stronger reaction out of Tony Chiu-Wai Leung for the POW sequence, John Woo wanted tears and went to great lengths to get them. First he got dressed up in an American soldier's costume then he briefed one of his stunt guys to shoot him with an AK47 (loaded with blanks) when the camera started rolling. So that's what happened - surely the last thing Leung was expecting. Woo later on explained that even though the gun was shooting blanks, he was getting shot at close range and was in severe pain. His clothes were torn and he got burns on his body. He ended up rolling around in a puddle in front of Leung. He did this for seven takes (the first being unusable because, instead of tears, Leung registered total shock and astonishment). Since Leung and Woo are close friends, the idea of Woo being gunned down in front of him was enough to elicit the sought after tears.

After the breakup with his partnership with Hark Tsui, John Woo was having trouble finding backing for his films; stories have circulated that Tsui (one of the most powerful men in Hong Kong cinema) said Woo was hard to work with, and this led to a virtual blacklisting of Woo. At any rate, Woo financed almost all of the cost of the movie out of his own pocket.

John Woo rewrote much of the script to incorporate his reaction to the massacre in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Woo has described this project as his equivalent of Apocalypse Now (1979), as it had the same exhausting and draining effect on him as that film had on Francis Ford Coppola.

The cost of the film was around US$3.5 million, the highest budget for a Hong Kong film at the time.

The helicopter footage used in the camp raid was a mixture of stock footage from the Vietnam war, as well as scenes from another Vietnam movie.

Simon Yam was actually burnt in the face during the POW camp sequence.

Yun-Fat Chow was originally going to be play Luke, as he was really impressed with the script but John Woo had told him that his character was not the essential character of the story (though a pivotal one nonetheless) and that it might not have complimented his leading man status as it was really a supporting role (or more precisely - fourth leading role).

Was originally planned to be a prequel to Un mañana mejor (1986) but a falling out between John Woo and producer Hark Tsui prevented this from happening. Woo reworked the script into what it is today, and Tsui made his own prequel, A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon (1989).

The Vietnam exteriors were shot in Thailand, and the interiors were shot in Hong Kong at the now-demolished Golden Harvest Studio stages. Cinema City deemed it too expensive to shoot the nightclub shootout in Thailand.

During the filming of some of the riot sequences, things got so chaotic on the set that John Woo panicked and ran into several shots. Once, he actually ran into an explosion, which caused large cuts on his head.

John Woo based Frank and Paul on friends of his. One friend became the leader of a triad gang while the other became a drug addict.

John Woo thought all the performances in the film were good, except for Waise Lee, who Woo felt put in only an "average" performance.

John Woo based much of the film (the first act in particular) on his own experiences growing up in the slums of Hong Kong: "Our family was so poor [we] had to go to the back of restaurants for leftovers to keep from starving. The place I lived had no trees, no blue skies, no sunshine. There were buildings everywhere. It always rained...when I stepped out the front door into the alley, the junkies would be injecting themselves with heroin...when you turned around there would be people gambling. Beating each other up for ten cents...every time I walked through an alley, I assumed I was going to be beaten up. Growing up in that environment I saw only a cruel and depressed world. I was in hell too long. I tried to work out the ugliness of that world in Bullet..it was an intense experience, but very rewarding for me"

Simon Yam was satisfied working with John Woo on the film, but he was disappointed because he didn't get any publicity for it.

Crouching Tiger set the standard that HK and Taiwan were able to produce films that were at the same, perhaps even higher caliber than american films. I have always felt that their films were better even before this. One film that convinced me that HK films could reach out further than american films was this film, John Woo's Bullet in the Head. To sum this film up, its basically John Woo's take on Vietnam, but it really hits you harder than any Nam film ive ever seen. Woo pours alot of thought and emotion into the script and characters, making it more than his shootout/gangster outings. the film never pretends to have a positive connotation, and the ending is absolutely one of the best endings in HK cinema. An absolute masterpiece, see it, or you may never understand how a good action/drama should be done.
How can you not like a movie that starts out with a bloody street fight to an instrumental version of The Monkees "I'm a believer"?

When you start watching this you'll probably laugh at some of the sentiment of the beginning, (the three main guys jump rope, ride bikes, and sing together for instance. Go ahead, try not to snicker, you won't succeed.) This is all a perfect setup for the following sucker punch of the most brutally and entertainingly violent and horrifying series of events ever put on film. People are shot in their head, people explode, demonstrators are shot, exploding Cuban cigars, etc. The thing is that this mix of melodrama, action, and violence comes together into a cohesive whole and works amazingly well.

By the end of the film will drain you physically and emotionally from what you have seen, which is probably why so many people would prefer the shorter ending of this movie. The ending fight is one of the best ever filmed, but by the time you get to it you'll be exhausted. Personally, I like the long ending.

Honestly, this is the best movie I have ever seen. It is the best mix of melodrama and violence ever put on film. It's over the top in almost every way imaginable. It's suprisingly moving. I love it.
John Woo directs an absolute merciless Vietnam war drama that is comparable to The Deer Hunter in it's power and is quite possibly one of the greatest movies of Woo's career. The movie follows three trouble-making kids (Tony Leung, Waise Lee and Jackie Cheung) who are exiled to Vietnam to escape the Hong Kong authorities after a rival gang member is killed by them, once in Saigon the run into "The Viet Cong" who are far worse than the HK authorities and their rival gang and what the V.C do to our trio makes them regret in all their hearts that they didn't go to prison in the much safer Hong Kong. A Bullet In The Head would be a tale about friendship overcoming the hard times of war, if the friendships in the movie actually prevailed. Instead the movie gives us a heart wrenching look at war and what it does to the three friends in the movie. The kids in the movie are in the beginning not very sympathetic and give off the impression that they deserve what they get but once they go to Vietnam you realize just how much in over their head they are and Woo filters the emotion from this situation and effectively conveys a story that is hard to watch but very rewarding nonetheless. After witnessing the debacle of Windtalkers I decided to see if Woo could direct war, well it goes without saying this blows that one out of the water. This is up there with Hard Boiled and The Killer as Woo's best film.

* * * * out of 4-(Excellent. A Must See!)
I saw this film once with my friends and it ruined our nerves. This film grabs and doesn´t let loose till its finished. It is the only film I ever saw that had violence really, not only so to say, non-stop. Even if the guys crossed a street or bought something to eat the bullet-showers didn´t stop. Watching this film is a nightmare because it just doesn´t stop till nearly everyone is dead. What it makes so attracting is the fact, that it works, this film is the climax of its genre, it is hard to imagine that any film can be more focused on violence than this film. Its also hard to tell entertainment from rejection and thats what John Woo can do better than anyone. His intensity in violence is close to Pasolinis 120 Days Of Sodom And Gomorrha and some films of David Lynch, but he does it in his own unique consequent ways, which certainly generated a new set a new style and standard in filming. This film though not so amusing as hard boiled got 10 instead of 9 because of its extraordinary strangeness. Watch this film and be sure to have a good beer with friends afterwards to come down again, otherwise your sleep will be affected.

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Mono

Fleeing from a murder rap during the political turmoil of 1960's Hong Kong, three devoted friends (Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Jacky Cheung and Waise Lee) seek their fortunes in war-torn Vietnam and are ripped apart by greed and betrayal.

John Woo's ambitious movie - an operatic valentine to his youth in HK and his love of David Lean epics, and a response to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 - went over-schedule and flopped at the local box-office when released in 1990, but has since been recognized as one of the finest productions in HK film history. Newcomers Leung, Cheung and Lee are terrific as the three friends whose lives are devastated by the violence they encounter in a foreign land, and they're matched throughout by Simon Yam as the Eurasian hit-man who rescues them from the worst of their experiences. For all its explosions and gun play, however, BULLET IN THE HEAD is a very human drama, played out against the vast backdrop of the Vietnam conflict, and invested with a palpable sense of love and compassion for its leading characters. Cinematography and editing are world-class, and Woo's dark-hearted script (co-written by Patrick Leung and Janet Chin) incorporates the themes of loyalty and brotherhood which have shaped and defined all of his films since A BETTER TOMORROW (1986). Cheung's final scene is absolutely heartbreaking; classic score by James Wong and Romeo Diaz.

(Cantonese dialogue)
This is the opposite of a kid's movie. Many R rated violent movies are fine for kids, but the story, the tragedy, the horror, and just the characters are too much for children. This is not a movie to watch if you are having a party. This is a fine, fine work by John Woo. The four main characters are excellent, and one is a killing machine. In the end you get more from this than even The Killer (which I feel is a better movie). While The Killer may tug at your heart, this will screw with your mind. This movie must be seen much more than the Matrix when it comes to being unable to explain what's going on. John Woo's opening seems very in character for him, but it might not be perfect for this film. Still, it serves its purpose and the end is truly incredible.
***definite spoilers - beware***

In the cinema version of Bullet in the Head screened in Australia, the film concludes in the boardroom with Jacky Cheung's bullet-punctured skull being unveiled to Waise Lee before his former friend shoots him stone dead in front of the other executives.

An alternative version seen on cable in Taiwan - the one discussed by other reviewers here and often criticised - sees the pair retire somehow (how???) from the boardroom and engage in a protracted and bizarre, almost gladiatorial combat somewhere by the docks of Victoria Harbour (presumably).

The first ending was easily superior and no less bleak; the second suffers terribly in comparison. But despite that, the second ending's ferocity indicates just what John Woo lost when he packed his things and moved to LA. For all of the clumsiness of the second ending, it still rammed home Woo's unrelenting fury at the thought of friendship betrayed. This "non sequitur" ending is redeemed by the honesty of that fury.

Hong Kong movies are (were?) so often like that - short on technical and narrative polish, but long on passion and drive. Compare Broken Arrow, Face/Off and MI2 (or almost all of the films made by other HK expats in recent years) - they're the exact opposite. None of these come close to Bullet in the Head. Woo may never top it.
In 1989, John Woo made a film that would simultaneously redefine and reinvent the action genre forever. The film I speak of is, of course, The Killer. Blending a touching storyline with exuberant gunfights, The Killer worked through excess and it was an absolute delight to be behold. It's hard to follow up on something like that, and for his next A-class feature; Bullet in the Head, John Woo wasn't quite able to recreate that what he did so incredibly well a year earlier. However, what he has created is still an excellent thrill ride and one that fans of The Killer wont want to miss! Woo is keen to keep that gang element from The Killer, except this time he fuses it was action from the Vietnam war, and as the story spans across many different locations, it can aptly be considered an epic. We follow the stories of three young men who leave Hong Kong after two of them kill another gang member. They decide to become smugglers and take advantage of the Vietnam War, but little did they know that they would end up in the thick of it.

The film takes obvious influence from the classic Vietnam war dramas such as 'The Deer Hunter' and 'Platoon', but through Woo's stylising, it takes on a life of it's own and stands apart from those films that influenced it. Woo is known for going over the top, and seeing three men in suits in the middle of the Vietnam war is over the top alright! However, also going over the top is the sentiment and I don't know if it's just the way that Chinese translates into English or what, but this film is definitely cheesy! The sentiment boded well in The Killer, but here it definitely doesn't and the film would be a lot better if the amount of sentiment was more realistic. The sentiment messes up the characters as well as the film too, as seeing one or more of them break into great long speeches undermines the fact that they're supposed to be criminals. However, all this doesn't matter once you get into the gun battles; which are incredible to say the least. If it wasn't for the sentiment, it would have been a complete whole; but it's still a damn good movie regardless.
Wow, an amazing film. I've been a big John Woo fan for a few years, and this is the last major film of his I've gotten around to seeing. The action scenes are incredible, as to be expected. Not as much action as The Killer or the record-holding Hard Boiled, but still a lot of exciting stuff. This is also a really moving drama. Jackie Cheung in particular was amazing. Of his three acting nominations that year, this was the leading actor nomination he earned at the Hong Kong Film Awards, and I can't believe he didn't win. The POW sequence was so sad, so tragic, so powerful, so moving. Maybe The Deer Hunter was as moving to me. Maybe.

Anyway, this truly is John Woo's Apocalypse Now. An unforgettable drama, not just because it's a memorable, high quality, and entertaining film, but because of the emotional impact the events have on the characters and it'll have on you. 10/10
If you've never seen a John Woo movie before, you're in for one hell of a surprise about forty minutes into Bullet in the Head. Up until this point, there has been violence in the film but it has mostly been restricted to street level brawling, clashes between armed police and war protesters in Saigon and punch ups in Hong Kong slums. Then at the height of an argument in a Triad owned nightclub, things get turned up to eleven as Waise Lee pulls a machine gun from out of a piano and massacres an entire room full of gangsters in one breathtaking swoop. After this, things barely let up as Woo mixes in harrowing prison camp madness with over the top gun battles. If this implies that Bullet in the Head has no heart however then nothing could be further from the truth; not only is this an incredibly violent movie, it might also be Woo's most emotional.

Stamped over everything is in the indelible trace of the Tiananmen square massacre, which might explain the film's poor showing in Hong Kong, where it played to the people who faced it first hand far too soon for them to embrace it. Over fifteen years later though, Bullet In The Head could do with a reappraisal so that it might stand on its own two feet, rather than simply being viewed as an Eastern alternative to The Deer Hunter or Apocalypse Now.

The Eastern setting though provides a fresh spin on the Vietnam war which had already been captured on camera by an America eager to exorcise the ghosts of the war. The story of three ghetto youths (Waise Lee, Jackie Cheung and future superstar Tony Leung) forced to flee Hong Kong, it captures them in their early days before sending them to Saigon, where the trio intend to take advantage of the war and make a fortune. Needless to say, things do not go entirely as planned and they have to flee once more with a box filled with gold they have captured from a local kingpin. Unfortunately for them, there is nowhere to run but into the Vietcong-infected jungle...

For the first time, the true scale of the war is made readily apparent. In the East, it is sometimes known as The Second Indochina War as the conflict didn't restrict itself to Vietnam itself, spilling over into neighbouring Cambodia and Laos and affecting everyday citizens of countries who weren't even involved. Woo's vision of the 1960's Far East is one of unprecedented chaos triggered by the clash of Capitalist and Communist ideologies, where suicide bombs are detonated in traffic jams and citizens plucked from the street to have their heads blown off by overzealous military police. It's an uncompromising vision and no mistake.

All of this is told from the eyes of our heroic trio and the effects of the war leave an impression on all of them. Their friendship is tested to the limit and watching it dissolving, counter-cut with earlier moments when they were smiling, happy youngsters is nigh on heartbreaking. Corny yes, but still heartbreaking.

However, for those of you have seen a John Woo film before and want action on an unprecedented scale, well look no further. The aforementioned nightclub battle is just an impressive iceberg tip, as Woo hurtles the characters from one set piece to the next with a riotous enthusiasm. A riverside gun fight keeps things moving, followed by skirmishes in the jungle and a breath taking helicopter assault on a Vietcong camp, bullets flying in all directions as fireballs bloom upwards and bodies contort in slow motion death rattles. Provided you've got the unedited version, you'll also see a climactic car duel that is better than anything he has done since moving to the States.

Action junkies then will be well sated but what about the rest of us who want bold, creative film making that doesn't have to rely on helicopter explosions to make a point? Well, Bullet in the Head delivers four career defining performances from the leads, a cathartic and emotional script, a harrowing impression of a world with a collapsing social order and a stark political message on the worries of Hong Kong citizens regarding their fate in the 1997 handover. All that's missing is a love story...oh wait, there's one at the beginning. Admittedly, sometimes it is a bit too violent for its own good and Woo could have eased off the throttle to let it breathe a bit, but this is still a film worth catching and a career high point for the auteur.
A bullet in the head is a crime story set against the background of the Vietnam war.Just think "A better tomorrow"+"deer hunter+"Apocalypse Now" and you hit the right spot.Woo is amazing in this one and it contains his trademarks: themes of friendship and betrayal, shameless sentimentality backed up by extreme violence and his penchant for showing scenes with entertaining/shocking excessiveness (the riot in the beginning of the movie, Simon Yam's botched escape etc.) The violence is surprisingly unchoreographed and this adds realism to this film (don't worry, you stile get hundreds of people getting shot) What separates this movie from other HK and even American fare is the POW scene, which makes the similar "Deer Hunter" look soft by comparison.In here, Woo lets go of all restraint and shows us how evil and violent the world could be. Not even Coppola or Scorsese or even Cimino could show me that.

Woo is more than just an action director. This movie is the ultimate testament to this fact. He is as adept in showing characters interact in streets or even that beautiful shot of water flowing from the petal of a flower as he is in showing people getting bloodily shot. I can't believe that this is not in the top 250 when there are movies that don't even deserve to be there.

Overall, a very violent and honest film. Not for the squeamish.

John woo fans! this film deserves something higher than 7.6!
one of the best, hardest and pitilessest war/action/drama movies ever. thank you john woo for this masterpiece. a movie which you can't get out of your mind once you have seen it.
One of the most intense, powerful, and profound cinematic motion pictures. BULLET IN THE HEAD (The original Cantonese title is known as DIE XUE JIE TOU.) is mesmerizing and perplexing, yet equally emotional motion picture that gives the audience a completely different perspective on the Vietnam War...and how this event has changed the lives of three friends forever.

Ben (Tony Leung), Frank (Jacky Cheung), and Paul (Waise Lee) are three companions who have decided to escape from the perils of their native homeland in Hong Kong. Since Ben and his other two friends wanted to escape from their troublesome pasts, they felt that they could start over and make new, enriching lives for themselves. The three saw opportunity in the country of Vietnam. Little do these three realized that no matter where they would settle, violence was bound to ensue.

In 1967, the conflict between North and South Vietnam has elevated. Riots have been precipitated, fear and panic are widespread, and carnage is rampant. The three main characters are unfortunately caught in the middle of the Vietnam War. Eventually, more mayhem is not far behind.

As the three are trapped and incarcerated in the prisons of the Vietcong main quarters, their friendship with each other is slowly disintegrating...their lives hang in the balance... Whether all three of them can trust each other now and make it out alive is a question that remains ambiguous...

BULLET IN THE HEAD is one of the most sickening albeit cathartic films the viewer will ever witness. Director John Woo is definitely one of the most contemporary action directors around. He spares no punches or bullets with his incredible bursts of action sequences; yet he can still deliver a striking message about the powers of morality and how a humane attitude can help overcome all opposition. BULLET IN THE HEAD has more than enough action to satiate viewers of effervescent action films. There are tons of explosions, shoot-outs, and an even riveting helicopter rescue mission that is a true, vivid climax. These haunting images of BULLET IN THE HEAD, from the unspeakable acts of slaughter, to the moments where friendships triumph over all, will paint an indelible picture in one's mind.

BULLET IN THE HEAD is an unconventional, action-packed film that is moving and enthralling. The disturbing violence in this movie grips the audience as it coerces them to feel the pain. BULLET IN THE HEAD, instead of glorifying violence, rather shows the anguish, the abhorrence, and the abomination of how a once potentially prosperous country now lays in shambles thanks to the devastating war. Cities have been destroyed, villages are burned, and lives are forever scarred, physically and mentally.

Through the experiences of three unlikely heroes in BULLET IN THE HEAD, the viewer can commiserate with all the suffering the people in Vietnam have tangibly felt. The realism of the atrocities of the Vietnam War are captured thanks to the astute direction by John Woo.

BULLET IN THE HEAD is one movie which will adhere to your thoughts forever, even if you watch it only once. This film has excellent action scenes, and a constant mix of feelings as the movie jerks around with the character's emotions. They range from victorious, to heartbroken, to horrific. The cast, including the three leads along with Simon Yam and Fennie Yuen are excellent.

BULLET IN THE HEAD may well be John Woo's best film. Although the graphic violence in BULLET IN THE HEAD is unbearable, it is not gratuitous. The inhumanity of the supercilious villains is shown as they evoke trepidation in their victim's eyes. BULLET IN THE HEAD is one violent, relentlessly brutal yet provocative thriller.

If you feel that you are mature enough to handle the violence in BULLET IN THE HEAD, then by all means, rent this film. You'll discover the true brilliance of John Woo in this rarely seen film in America. He has talent for creating some of the most versatile action films ever! Thrills, character development, and a thought-provoking plot all commingle together in BULLET IN THE HEAD. This is one movie that is impossible to watch throughout its entire duration without cringing, but the chance to see this rare gem is well worth the time.

RATING: ***1/2 out of ****.
The best and most beautiful of John Woo's films. It is a raw, emotional epic that transcends genre. When I first saw it theatrically, it became my favorite film ever... and is still high on my top ten list. I saw it with the office ending, and it's the ending I will always prefer. Why? Because it's tonally consistent. The car chase ending is not. It is sloppily directed. Woo tries to make it resonate by inter-cutting the bike riding sequence, but it feels forced. The sequence has no reason to exist. The film is extremely powerful and has sequences that are unforgettable -- Ben bidding his wife farewell during a student demonstration; the murder of Ringo; the pee drinking scene; Frank's final moments; Simon's Yam's stylish intro, the list is endless. The score by James Wong and Romeo Diaz is one of the greatest ever and takes its melodic cues from "I'm A Believer" (The Monkeys). It is an extraordinary piece of work and it is a screaming insult that it is not available on CD. Tony Leung's performance (as Ben) is riveting, and this is the film that truly showcased his awesome talent. The action sequences are Woo's strongest and most realistic, and the cinematography is amazing. The opening twenty minutes are virtually dialog-free as Woo establishes the day-to-day lives of his three protagonists (Leung, Waise Lee and Jacky Cheung) and sets up their destiny. The emotional build is extremely powerful and the depiction of war is graphic, insane and hideous. Ultimately, "Bullet in the Head" is a devastating experience and testament to John Woo's incredible talent. Nothing he has made since has come even close to the cinematic majesty of this masterpiece.
Saw BITH on DVD last night after watching it once years ago on TV. I found it surprising the impression it gave me this time is completely different. I did not actually seem to be impressed by it at all when it was shown on a local TV channel, but is now completely overwhelmed when I watched it again on DVD last night. I suppose this movie must be enjoyed uninterrupted by TV commercials, in order to get to grips with the atmosphere it created. From casual and light-hearted to brutal and dead-serious. In other words, it requires no less than totally focused attention from the audience.

I'd like to clear the air for those fans who considered this movie involving the war in IndoChina is something of a first for Woo. Woo actually did a little-known jungle warfare movie called "Ying xiong wei lei" (Heros Shed No Tears) in the early 80's on a shoestring budget, of a story about the Thai government hires group of Chinese mercenaries to capture powerful drug-lord from Golden Triangle, before he became famous in 1986 for his gangster classic "A Better Tomorrow".

In BITH Woo succeeded in recreating the nostalgic look and feel of the 1960's Hong Kong and Vietnam. The characters and events all appeared so genuine and real. I appreciate it as a great movie from the following angles:

In Hong Kong the street lives of those gangster youths vividly coincided with the anti-British riots in the then Crown Colony. The three protagonists living life in poverty, turf wars and a little romance over a backdrop of terrifying bombing campaign waged by pro-Chairman Mao rioters met by brutal clampdown from the Hong Kong police in full riot gears, all being exactly shown as how it would look in those unforgettable days. The scene showing a British bomb disposal expert deactivating a bomb is very true. I still remember in real life seeing the gruesome news picture of one of these guys got his arm blown off while doing such a nasty job in the Wanchai district. All these strongly convinces the audience why the three friends, apart from a murder case hanging over two of them, have good reasons to leave and go somewhere else.

In Saigon the endless anti-war street protests leading to violent bloodshed, dare-devil assassinations met by ruthless summary executions, the ever present pack of International photo-journalists chasing after their opportunity of a good news story, Chinese businessmen living in the country wheeling and dealing with the Vietnamese from North and South. Those (mainly Americans and other foreigners) who had the means enjoy themselves in seedy nightclubs as if nothing unusual was happening outside, where life was so chaotic that looters could be anybody including the soldiers.

In the Vietnamese jungle the three friends and the local hit-man character went through a harsh lesson of survival, including escape through unfamiliar terrain, intense firefights, frequent bickering, unsavory POW camp rituals and a spectacular last-minute rescue by commandos and helicopters. A lesson of survival in which the temptation of getting rich quick was too much for one of the friends to resist, leading to more tragic events. Although some of the scenes would remotely remind audience of Hollywood movie "The Deer Hunter", the fact is that the two are very different in many ways. Just as you can't really say "The Great Escape" and "The Bridge on River Kwai" are similar.

Back in Hong Kong, the two friends who managed to return had to confront each other in a finale that brought the whole story like a roller-coaster to an abrupt end.

IMHO BITH is Heroic Bloodshed on the grandest possible scale never seen before or after.
This masterpiece is a crime story and a war drama as well as a wonderful film about friendship and the power of money. "Bullet in the Head" is a truly amazing epic that takes place in the era of Vietnam war and it becomes better and better with every minute: the performances of the four main actors are excellent and John Woo´s great action choreography is out of this world! This film is loaded with so much dramatic, emotions and explosiveness what will make you forget anything other you´ve seen before easily!!

I was truly speechless because of this great movie!!!

I only bought this because it was part of "The John Woo Collection" and having watched it I'm glad that I bought it as it is a good film although it isn't as good as "The Killer" or "Hard Boiled". The action doesn't stop from the beginning to the end. I was expecting it to be a war film as it is mostly set in Vietnam during the war however it is really an action film that happens to be set during a war.

Three friends decide to flee from Hong Kong when the police are after them for the killing of a local gang leader. They decide to head to Saigon believing they will be able to make a quick buck selling items they brought with them on the black market. Unfortunately for them their items are destroyed when a bomber blows up the taxi they were in during an attack on a high ranking ARVN officer. After witnessing the summary execution of the bomber they realise what they need to make money in Saigon is a gun. They soon meet up with their contact and acquire guns, with these they steal a crate of gold from a local gangster, in the process they rescue a singer who gets wounded in the escape. Their escape plan does not go as well as planned and they find themselves prisoners of the NVA. I've tried to keep the spoilers to a minimum so as not to spoil the story for those who have yet to see it.

As one would expect from a John Woo film there is plenty of action, in fact there is hardly a scene that doesn't involve fighting or shooting. The action looks good if a little unbelievable; our pistol carrying friends seem to be able to beat machine-gun carrying ARVN and NVA soldiers along with a hoard of gangsters. I'd recommend this to anybody who likes action films or is interested in seeing a Vietnam movie that isn't centred on the Americans.
This Film without a doubt is John Woo's Darkest film.A Film focused on three best friends who go to Vitenam to smuggle goods for a living. But they are caught in a middle of a war that will affect them for the rest of their lives.John Woo makes a dark tale on reality.How messed up the real world is and how your best friends aren't always loyal to you.he does brings his message well in the film and makes it a good film but there are little bumps along the way.Though Character development is on top form and the Acting is Marvelous, still the Plot is uneven at best and a bit confusing still this film is great.

The film takes place in 1968 Hong Kong.Ben(Tony Leung) is about to get married with his girlfriend and his friends Frank(Jacky Chung) and Paul(Waise Lee) are on his side into helping him get married.things are going good but Frank needs to pick up a loan to pay off the Marriage he gets the money but is jumped by a group of punks.Frank tells Ben what happened and Ben kills the Gang Leader in rage.Ben is now being chased by the police and decides to leave Hong Kong with his friends to Vitenam to smuggle goods for a living.

Once they get to Vitenam, It's all fine and Dandy until they find out how bad the country is.They witness a soldier killing A young boy for an assassination attempt and now that their supplies are destroyed in the process they go find a man name Luke(Simon Yam).Luke helps them with weapons and now Ben wants to help a singer name Sally who is a slave to A crime Boss.He wants to help Sally into leaving Vitnam and going back to Hong Kong.While trying to Escape Paul goes crazy with Greed after finding a box of gold and becoming Desperate to escape that even his friendship and loyalty start to disappear.

So far after watching this movie you Get confused and lost into the plot but it's the action and the characters that keep your interest.

As for Character You Feel You can relate to.Ben your everyday lover who has dreams for the future and wants better in life and to have children and a wife.He's a real likable character that most people can relate to.Frank is another character you can relate to as well.The loyal friend that would do anything for you no matter what.A character like that is what you call a true friend.Paul however is yes at first loyal but money and power gets to his head will anything for it if it means to kill a person or your best friend and becomes annoying during the middle of the film.

As for acting, Great.It comes to no surprise that Tony Leung gives a memorable performance as Ben.Before becoming famous in Hong Kong this film was one his early films in his career and gave a performance that lets you know Tony can act.it's a shame this film was not famous in Hong Kong maybe it could of made Tony Famous or at least win an award. Jacky Cheung Surprisiing me at least gives a great performance.I will admit never liked Jacky Cheung as an Actor he was too over-the top for me but he gives an amazing performance as the goofy lovable Frank his performance is yes a bit goofy but he gets away with it in the end when goes crazy and I'm Amaze how he did a great job pulling it off.Waise Lee however unlike Tony Leung and Jacky Cheung his performance isn't that great which is a shame given the performance he gave in A better tomorrow was great.Past the lead Simon Yam does well with his small Role it's a shame he wasn't given much because his character was interesting.

overall great film watch it see for your self.
John Woo's "Die Xue Jie Tou" of 1990 is a great and intense action film that definitely keeps what its international a.k.a. titles "Bullet in the Head"/"Bloodshed In The Streets" promise. This must be one of the most blood-soaked, ultra-violent and tough-minded action flicks of the 90s, and even though I personally liked Woo's earlier films "A Better Tomorrow" and "The Killer" even more, "Bullet In The Head" is also a great film that lovers of violent action and uncompromising cinema can not allow themselves to miss! "The Killer" and "A Better Tomorrow" were not exactly Disney flicks either (more precisely, they are exceptionally violent films too), but "Bullet In The Head" even surpasses them in means of brutality, and is easily the most violent film by John Woo, who wasn't exactly known for his tame films back in his Hong Kong days.

After an incident in Hong Kong in which a person is killed, three friends decide to go to Vietnam in order to get rich as quickly as possible. The time is 1967, and the war-torn country is pure hell, but also a promising opportunity for people looking for nothing but a quick fortune...

All three leading men, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Jacky Cheung and Waise Lee are great in their roles, especially Leung is outstanding. The supporting performances are also very good, Simon Yam is especially worth mentioning. Both the story itself, and the graphic depiction of violence is uncompromising and exceptionally brutal. But "Bullet in the Head" is not only recommended for its brutality. This is raw, stunning Action cinema in its purest form, and no lover of cinema can afford to miss the brilliance of John Woo's Hong Kong cinema. John Woo truly is an exceptional director of action cinema. None other than Horror genius Sam Raimi has once stated, that Woo is for Action cinema, what Hitchcock was for the Thriller, and, regarding the Hong Kong-produced films I agree. Sadly, John Woo is mostly associated with silly blockbusters of the "MI 2" kind since he went to Hollywood, but the films he made back in Hong Kong, such as "Bullet in the Head" still shine out as true gems of cinematic greatness!
This film is an excellent demonstration of the importance of a great director to achieving a film masterpiece. Reportedly, John Woo was originally going to make A Better Tomorrow III for producer Tsui Hark, using a large part of the storyline that appears in this film, but some rather outrageous tension on the set of A Better Tomorrow II and only slightly less difficulty on A Better Tomorrow caused him to back out of that project, which was rewritten and directed by Tsui Hark. This stunning movie is what John Woo created while Tsui Hark put out the much less worthy continuation of what Mr. Woo started. By this I do not mean to suggest that A Better Tomorrow III is a bad film: It is somewhat above average, but very far from being of Bullet in the Head's level of excellence.

Storyline: Three friends from Hong Kong find adventure, terror, tragedy and their own true natures when they end up in Vietnam during the war. Tony Leung, Jackie Cheung and Waise Lee are the friends, and Simon Yam is an initially enigmatic mercenary they meet in Vietnam. Leung is the star, but Waise Lee is outstanding, and Simon Yam shows that he is, indeed, capable of giving an excellent, nuanced performance. As for Jackie Cheung, I think that his performance here would be singled out for praise in most films, but he is competing with great performers, and doesn't quite measure up.
After accidentally killing a gang member in 1967 Hong Kong, three friends (Tony Leung, Waise Lee and Jackie Cheung) head out to Vietnam to make some quick cash. Despite their best efforts, though, they become a part of the war.

Woo's best movie, and one of the best movies about the Vietnam War ever made, giving a fresh slant to the conflict. Woo's scripts are often weak, but this one time he came up with a story that perfectly dramatized his general concerns about the conflict between good and evil, spiritual values and materialistic ones. The early parts of the story sound corny and naive but for once they should -- this is, after all, a story about lost innocence.

Woo's movies are also action showcases, sometimes to the extent of depersonalizing the conflicts, making it all choreography. (Not really a knock: my favorite Woo movie, HARD BOILED, epitomizes that approach). That doesn't happen here, though -- the violence is still wonderfully choreographed, but it has weight, it feels very meaningful. It can jab out of nowhere, and it's presence is always seen as crazy and frightening. The sequences in the POW camp, as well as Jackie Cheung's final fate are very intense, in part because Woo connects the dots here between ideas and action.

Superb acting by everyone concerned, though Waise Lee hams it up a bit at the end. Tony Leung, one of my favorite Asian actors, does another classy job, his eyes and his stance chart his character's growth from a callow child to a weary, understanding adult. Simon Yam is also quite good, doing a mean Alain Delon impersonation here.

Somber and sad, with a weight of personal feeling behind it. This once everything worked right for Woo.
John Woo's masterpiece. Who would have thought his best movie would be without the services of Chow Yun Fat (Think Mifune to Kurosawa). Bullet in the Head is not an easy movie to watch, but the images it leaves are powerful.

The setting is 1967 Vietnam, seen through the eyes of three friends from Hong Kong. It was interesting to see this war through the eyes of someone besides American GI's for once. The protagonists arrive full of optimism, sure that fortune is just around the corner and that their camaraderie will persevere through all. Needless to say, things don't go as smoothly as they planned, and the ensuing trials they endure have drawn well-deserved favorable comparison to the best American depictions of the war (The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, etc).

If you are a Woo fan who hasn't experienced Bullet in the Head, go rent it now. Same goes for those whose taste runs to war movies. It's not for everyone, though. Anyone upset by violence should steer a clear path.

10 out of 10 - Probably the best of all the Hong Kong movies.
I first started watching John Woo films because of his combination with Chow Yun fat and Violence. Together, Woo has delivered some Brilliant Movies like Hard Boiled and A Better Tomorrow. I didn't expect much from Bullet in the head when i first rented it out. It doesn't star Chow Yun Fat and its a little bit of a war movie, which i don't fancy. After watching the Movie, All i can say is not only is this the Best John Woo movie I've ever seen. It is among one of the Greatest Movies of all time. After i watched it once, i bought the VHS, and as soon as the double disk DVD came out, i had to buy the DVD. John Woo has mentioned in the Special features that this is his personal favourite movie since he has put a lot of effort in this movie. The Acting was Superb from all Stars, especially Tony Leung and Jackie Cheung. The violent Scenes were directed Magnificently. The ending twist was very surprisingly emotional and Brilliantly directed. Till this day, i never found any movie emotional. I can admit, after watching this movie, it did get to me. 10/10
Although some would say anti war movie. Long before Windtalkers, John Woo made this movie in HK. To tell you the truth, I wouldn't even call it a war movie ... more an action movie that plays while a war is being fought around them!

Tony Leung and others do their best, to bring believability to a script that isn't really the best John Woo has worked on. But despite that fact, it's still mesmerizing and the ending gave me goose bumps! I think it's flawed and maybe I could/should have given it only 8/10, but then again I liked it and that is what matters.

I heard that there are a few scenes missing, but that is something you can read about in another section on this IMDb site! :o)
I must say that this is one of the best movies i ever seen! It has a fantastic story, and the actors are very good. All from the beginning to the end this film is a masterpiece, and the ending couldn´t be better!

10 out of 10!