The action movies director John Woo

Action packed movies legend John Woo

John Woo, born October 1946 in Guangzhou, China, is a Chinese film director. He is famous for action movies that combine copious violence with lyrical melodramatic depictions of male bonding.

In 1950, Woo and his family immigrated to Hong Kong, where they lived in a crime-ridden slum. To escape his surroundings, Woo often went to either the local Chinese Christian church or a movie theatre. He was particularly fond of American musicals and later the films of many directors. Sergio Leone, Kurosawa Akira, Sam Peckinpah, and Jean-Pierre Melville. Years later, he would join their rank as an acclaimed director.

In 1969 Woo became a script supervisor at Cathay Film Company, and around that time he also made several experimental short films. Moving to Shaw Brothers in 1971, he became assistant to the prominent martial-arts film director Chang Cheh. Chang’s films, with their bloody violence and emphasis on male bonding, were a significant influence on Woo.

The first feature film directed by Woo, Tiehan rouqing (The Young Dragons), was completed in 1973.

But it was not released until 1975 because of its violent content. In 1973 Woo became a contract director with the Golden Harvest studio, for which he made a popular Cantonese opera, Dinü hua (1976; Princess Chang Ping), and Shaolin men (1976; Countdown in Kung Fu). These gave actor Jackie Chan one of his first major roles. Faqian han (1977, Money Crazy) established Woo as a director of slapstick comedies. Even after Woo left Golden Harvest in 1983 because he had grown tired of the genre, his new studio, Cinema City, compelled him to make two more comedies in Taiwan.

In 1986, aided by producer-director Tsui Hark (Xu Wenguang), John Woo made the gangster film Yingxiong bense (A Better Tomorrow). A huge box-office success, it initiated a series of action films that won Woo international acclaim. Their unprecedented mixture of expressive slow motion, nostalgia for lost codes of honour, Christian symbolism, melodramatic emotions, and hyperbolic violence are the reasons behind such popularity.

Woo’s cinema began to attract attention in the West

In 1990, Woo formed his own company, directing a number of hits. Including Bullet in the Head (1990), Once a Thief (1991) and Hard Boiled (1992). Those follow his style and gained popularity through the years.

Meanwhile, Woo’s cinema began to attract attention in the West, gaining legions of loyal fans and culminating in offers to work in Hollywood.

From his early “gun-fu” classics such as Hard Boiled and A Better Tomorrow to his Hollywood outings like Face/Off and Mission: Impossible II, Woo’s cinema has long been about heroic men who put their lives on the line for the right cause and, often more importantly, loyalty to their fellow men. Alongside with Wong Kar-Wai, he is one of Hong Kong’s most famous directors.

Photo credit:  Iwlies.