Chow Yun Fat, Emily Chu, Kenneth Tsang, Lung Ti, Leslie Cheung and Waise Lee

John Woo

Running Time:
95 mins

Mark (Yun Fat) and Ho (Ti) were the Triad's biggest counterfeiters and huge earners for organised crime but when their latest deal goes bad, Ho ends up in prison. While he serves his sentence Ho's brother Kit (Cheung) joins the police force to bring the Triads down and Mark looses all his status as a new boss takes over. When Ho is released, he decides to give up his life of crime and takes a job as a taxi driver but the Triads and his enemies won't let him go.

When it comes to naming a film that redefined action cinema in Hong Kong and then the world, one film should come to mind John Woo's 'A Better Tomorrow'.

Both Hollywood and Hong Kong had been producing films that stuck to the clichés of the action cinema throughout the eighties but in 1986 a director more famed for his comedies in his native land, took a bold set and moved the genre one big step forward.

Action suddenly became stylised, with multiple camera shots, slow motion gunfights and cinematography that would rival the most artistic of films. This was all due to the vision of director John Woo. Hong Kong action cinema had mainly concentrated on martial arts hero solving problems with their fists but Woo changed all that by introducing the gun as the main weapon. Now instead of the hero facing off against numerous enemies one at a time via martial arts, our protagonist would battle it out in a restaurant or home, with bullets flying and destruction raining down on everyone who was involved.

This level of violence had never been seen before and you could even argue that it actually glorified it but Woo and his creative team did something else unexpected, added a storyline. Where the story in action films had only been a way of connecting action scenes, Woo actually made the themes of friendship, honour and brotherhood the main emphasis of the movie. This created believable characters and ones that the audience could emphasise with but he then added another twist by making the hero of the film a gangster, desperate to change his around after his actions cause a tragedy.

As well as introducing the action talents of the director, this film also made Chow Yun-Fat a superstar. Not looking like your typical action star, Chow Yun-Fat oozes style and charisma, much like Clint Eastwood did in the 'Dirty Harry' movies in 1970 and was as deadly. Watch the actor walk into the restaurant to take out his rivals using two guns at the same time, instantly became a piece of iconic cinema and made Chow Yun-Fat a mega-star in the Far East and made Hollywood take notice.

'A Better Tomorrow' was the start of an action revolution in Hong Kong that would later spread to Hollywood and redefine the genre. John Woo would be sighted as an influence for many an action director and the great man would also make an impact on Tinsel town himself. While the film might seem a little dated now you can still revel in its achievement of moving the action genre in a new and much needed change of direction.


Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono and a choice of Cantonese or dubbed English soundtracks, the movie is presented quite well when you bear in mind that this was a low budget movie from 1986.


Disc 1

Commentary by Bey Logan
Renowned Asian film specialist Bey Logan provides usual fact filled commentary track for the classic John Woo film. Charting the film's history and the impact it had, not only on Hong Kong cinema but Hollywood as well, Logan imparts a cornucopia of facts and information about the movie, its location and the people in front of and behind the camera. This is another excellent commentary by the Asian film boffin.

Other Releases
Watch previews of 'Election', 'Shaolin Soccer', 'Memories of Murder' and 'Azumi'

Trailer (3.48 mins)
Watch the promotional trailer for the film's western release

Disc 2

Crossings: John Woo (47.15 mins)
Producers Tsui Hark and Terence Chang, co-producer Arthur Anderson, film critic Sek Kei and stars John Travolta and Nicolas Cage join director John Woo to talk about his career and his influence on Hong Kong and World cinema. From his humble beginnings as a wanabe actor to his directorial debut with 'The Young Dragons' in 1973, we see how his background and his apprenticeship at Golden Harvest shaped John Woo's career in the 60s and 70s. The programme also reveal how he honed his art via comedies but finally got to direct his own vision with 'A Better Tomorrow' in 1986 and that was when Hollywood started to take notice. This is a decent retrospective of the man's career and one that fans should enjoy.

Interview with John Woo (10.51)
Recorded in 1993 to accompany the US release of 'Hard Boiled', the director talks about coming to Hollywood, the films that have influenced his career and the themes of his movies.

Interview with Chow Yun-Fat (18.14 mins)
Recorded in 1993 to accompany the US release of 'Hard Boiled', the Asian superstar talks about his career, working with John Woo, the codes of honour and brotherhood in his films and Hollywood and its influences.


While not quite the Ultimate edition that the packaging proclaims, the double-disc DVD of 'A Better Tomorrow' should please fans of the film. The documentary about John Woo is good and the commentary by Asian cinema expert Bey Logan is a pleasure to listen to, making this is decent, if not ultimate package.


The Usher Home | Hush, Hush... | The Big Story | The Usher Speaks

Stuck @ Home | Coming Soon | Links | Contact the Usher