- Director:John Woo
- Writer:Janet Chun,Patrick Leung
- Cast:Tony Chiu-Wai Leung,Jacky Cheung,Waise Lee
- Time:2h 16min
|Cast overview, first billed only:|
|Tony Chiu-Wai Leung||-||Ben / Siu Bun (as Tony Chiu Wai Leung)|
|Jacky Cheung||-||Frank / Fai Jai|
|Waise Lee||-||Paul / Sau Ming|
|Simon Yam||-||Luke / Lok|
|Yolinda Yam||-||Sally Yan Sau Ching|
|Chung Lin||-||Mr. Y.S. Leong|
|Fennie Yuen||-||Jane / Siu Jan|
|Kan-Wing Tsang||-||Jane's father|
|Hang Shuen So||-||Jane's mother|
|Hee Ching Paw||-||Ben's mother|
|Tseng Chang||-||Paul's father|
|San-Yan Siao||-||Mr. Shing|
|Paco Yick||-||Ringo (as Tin Hung Yee)|
|Yun Pei||-||Frank's mother|
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.