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Heroic Bloodshed is a genre of Hong Kong action cinema revolving around stylized action sequences and dramatic themes such as brotherhood, duty, honour, redemption and violence.[1][2] The term heroic bloodshed was coined by editor Rick Baker in the magazine Eastern Heroes[3] in the late 1980s, specifically referring to the styles of directors John Woo and Ringo Lam. Baker defined the genre as "a Hong Kong action film that features a lot of gun play and gangsters rather than kung fu. Lots of blood. Lots of action."[4] Woo's film A Better Tomorrow was said to have started the genre. Woo has also been a major influence in its continued popularity and evolution his later works, namely Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow 2, and The Killer.[5]



Protagonists in these films are often good-willed criminals, typically triad members, hitmen, or thieves with a strict code of ethics, which in some cases lead to betrayal of their employer and savior to many of the intended victims, or police officers with a conscience, who cannot be corrupted in any way and usually modeled after the Hard Boiled Detective. Loyalty, family and brotherhood are the most typical themes of the genre. Heroic bloodshed films generally have a strong emotional angle, not only between, but during action sequences.

Pistols and submachine guns are frequently utilized by the heroes due to the light weight they provide, enabling their wielders to move more quickly. They are frequently held akimbo. The heroes are extremely agile and implement rolls, dives, slides, and falls while they duel, making for a graceful, ballet-like performance in the midst of gunfire.

Heroic bloodshed films often end on a downbeat or tragic note with the main heroes either dead, arrested by the police, or severely incapacitated.


The motifs of the heroic bloodshed genre have made their way into Hollywood cinema, especially the gun fu action sequences. Director John Woo was a chief instigator in this trend when he began directing Hollywood action films like Face/Off.

Examples of Heroic Bloodshed films

See also


  1. ^ Fitzgerald, Martin (2000). Hong Kong's Heroic Bloodshed. Pocket Essentials. ISBN 1903047072. 
  2. ^ Davies, Steven Paul (2001). A-Z of Cult Films and Film-Makers. Batsford. pp. 26. ISBN 0713487046. 
  3. ^ Logan, Bey (1996). Hong Kong Action Cinema. Overlook Press. pp. 191. ISBN 0879516631. 
  4. ^ Stokes, Lisa Odham; Michael Hoover (1999). City on Fire: Hong Kong Cinema. Verso. pp. 333. ISBN 1859847161. 
  5. ^ Morton, Lisa (2001). The Cinema of Tsui Hark. McFarland. pp. 62. ISBN 0786409908.,M1. 

External links



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