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A Better Tomorrow

Theatrical poster for A Better Tomorrow
Directed by John Woo
Produced by Tsui Hark
Film Workshop
Written by Chan Hing-Ka
Leung Suk-Wah
John Woo
Starring Chow Yun-Fat
Ti Lung
Leslie Cheung
Music by Joseph Koo
Distributed by Hong Kong Cinema City Co. Ltd.
United States Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date(s) Hong Kong August 2, 1986
Japan April, 1987
France July 21, 1993
Running time 95 min.
Country  Hong Kong
Language Cantonese
Followed by A Better Tomorrow II

A Better Tomorrow (Chinese: 英雄本色; Pinyin: Yīngxióng běnsè; Jyutping: Jing1 hung4 bun2 sik1; literally True Colors of a Hero) is a 1986 Hong Kong action film which had a profound influence on the Hong Kong movie-making industry, and later on an international scale.

Directed by John Woo, it stars Chow Yun-Fat, Ti Lung and Leslie Cheung. Although the movie was made 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 went on to become a blockbuster in Asian countries. The success also ensured the sequel A Better Tomorrow 2, also directed by Woo, and A Better Tomorrow 3: Love & Death in Saigon, a prequel directed by producer Tsui Hark. It is the #2 of the Best 100 Chinese Motion Pictures.

Contents

Plot

Ho works for the triad whose principle operation is printing and distributing counterfeit US bank notes. He is a respected member and handles the most important transactions. Mark, his best friend, is his partner in crime. Ho has the respect of the big boss, is given the title of "big brother," and often wears the all-white suit when representing the organization.

Incidentally, Ho has a younger brother, Kit, whom he cares deeply for. Unlike Ho, Kit wants to be a police officer. Ho keeps his criminal life secret and encourages Kit's career choice. There is a suggestion that their father knows what Ho is doing and is possibly involved, but this is kept secret.

Ho is sent to Taiwan by the boss to finalize a deal. A new member, Shing, is sent along as an apprentice. It turns out to be a police setup as Ho and Shing flee with guns blazing. Ho surrenders to the police while Shing escapes. Angry and bitter over Ho's imprisonment, Mark kills the men responsible—but not before Mark's kneecap is blown in the process.

While Ho is in prison, his father is killed by one of Shing's men (Shing has since taken over the organization). His dying words to Kit was to forgive his brother. In anguish, Kit blames Ho for their father's death.

Years later, Ho is released from prison. Determined to start a new, straight life, he finds work as a taxi driver. During one of his shifts, Ho finds Mark, who has been reduced to Shing's crippled errand boy. Mark pleads with Ho to take revenge on Shing, but Ho refuses. Shing, on the other hand, presses Ho to join him, this time without Mark.

Kit is obsessed with taking Shing down. He discovers Shing's next major deal. It turns out to be a deadly trap and Ho warns Kit, who refuses to listen. Mark, in his attempt to fight Shing's organization on his own, is almost beaten to death. Although Ho was devastated by this, he still refuses to get involved.

In the final chapter when the trap was taken place, Shing's men ambush Kit. Ho and Mark, in the effort to save Kit, manage to catch Shing. An exchange is made for both men, but it explodes into a wild shootout. Ho is wounded. Seeing his best friend shot, Mark berates Kit, and tells him that Ho came to the rescue. Before Mark is finished talking, he is shot dead. The cops arrive and Shing surrenders. Shing mocks, "I have money. In two, three days I'll be released..." The two brothers, finally seeing eye to eye, have no intention of seeing Shing released. Kit hands Ho a gun and he kills Shing. In the final scene, Ho handcuffs himself to Kit. Ho tells his brother that he has done nothing wrong.

Cast

  • Ti Lung as Sung Tse-Ho
  • Leslie Cheung as Sung Tse-Kit
  • Chow Yun-Fat as Mark 'Gor' Lee
  • Emily Chu as Jackie
  • Waise Lee as Shing
  • Shing Fui-On as Shing's Right-Hand Man
  • Kenneth Tsang as Ken
  • Tsui Hark as Music Judge (cameo)
  • John Woo (cameo), the director, is the Taiwanese police chief walking along the corridor of the bloodshed restaurant in slow motion.
  • Stephen Chow, while at early stage of his film career, was playing a minor role as a bodyguard of the Taiwanese triad leader.

Theme song

In the Sentimental Past (當年情)

Box office

A Better Tomorrow grossed a massive $34,651,324 HKD at the Hong Kong box office, ensuring that sequels and imitators would not be far behind.[1]

Musical references

  • During the nightclub scene, the song being played in the background is a classic Hong Kong tune sung by Roman Tam, considered the "grandfather" of the musical genre Cantopop.
  • In the scene where Kit rushes Jackie to a music recital, the violinist playing before Jackie plays the theme song of the movie.
  • Also heard in the soundtrack is "Sparrowfall 1", a track from Brian Eno's 1978 album, Music for Films.
  • The film also contains "Birdy's Theme" (from the film Birdy) by Peter Gabriel incorporated into the soundtrack.

Film references

  • Chow Yun Fat's entrance to the restaurant before the shoot-out is John Woo's homage to Mean Streets.
  • Woo's film was partially inspired by the 1967 Lung Kong film Ying xiong ben se (Story of a Discharged Prisoner), which is #39 on the Hong Kong Film Awards list of the Top 100 Chinese Films.
  • The scene in which Mark Lee tells the story of being forced to drink urine is apparently based on a real incident involving Chow Yun-Fat and director Ringo Lam, according to Bey Logan on the DVD commentary. This scene was recreated in Woo's Bullet in the Head.

Cultural impact

  • After the film, teenage boys in Hong Kong wore long dusters in emulation of Chow's character even though the climate was sub-tropical. In fact, in colloquial Cantonese, trench coats are called "Mark Gor Lau" (literally, Brother Mark's coat).
  • The Wu-Tang Clan has a song named after the film on their 1997 album Wu-Tang Forever.
  • The anime series Cowboy Bebop has many references to the film, including the last fight between Spike and Vicious in the episode "The Real Folk Blues (Part 2)".
  • Chow wore Alain Delon sunglasses in the movie. After the movie, Hong Kong was sold out of Alain Delon's sunglasses. French star Alain Delon sent Chow a personal thank you note.
  • In 2009, Empire Magazine named it #20 in a poll of the 20 Greatest Gangster Movies You've Never Seen* (*Probably)
  • Lupe Fiasco's song "Heat Under The Babyseat", which talks about violence in the youth, mentions A Better Tomorrow as a source of violent influence.

References

See also

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A Better Tomorrow is a 1986 Hong Kong action movie directed by: John Woo

Mark

  • Kid, don't point the gun at my head! If you have the guts, shoot me!!
  • That's enough!!! I don't need your pity!!...You don't owe me anything! I would never force my own friends to do something they wouldn't do! I have my own regulations! I just don't want to live like this anymore!!...Do you think I like to beg!?...I've been in bad shape for three years, waiting for this opportunity! This is my only chance, not to prove that I'm the best, but to simply take back what I have lost!!!...Look at yourself. Look at what you've become!!...Back then, people rejected you! Now you can't even take two steps without someone following you!!! Have you ever fought for a chance? You never have. Never!!!...I don't want to be like you...

Sung

  • Kit, you're right. We live in separate worlds. Your world is a better place...I may have taken the wrong path, but I am willing to make things right again, for it is not too late.

External links

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