Bullet in the Head
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Time Out saysHighly ambitious Vietnam epic about the dehumanising effects of greed and repression. Ben (Leung) grows up in the Hong Kong slums in the late '60s with best friends Paul (Waise Lee) and Frank (Cheung). Fleeing to Saigon after a fight with a gangster, the three attempt to profit from the war, smuggling first penicillin, then gold. Their enterprise comes at a heavy price. Paul becomes obsessed with the gold, and after capture by the Vietcong, they are forced to choose between murder or death. The governing metaphor is spelled out in the title: Woo recreates the infamous news photo of a Vietnamese executed by a gun to his head, ups the ante on the Russian roulette sequence in The Deer Hunter, and puts his own macabre spin on Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. The early sequences play like one of Woo's gangster films, with their heroic rhetorical imagery, slow motion, dissolves and freeze frames, but the director tightens the screw when the action shifts to Vietnam. Sometimes incoherent, over-pitched or simply painful to watch, this is Woo's most personal and political morality tale - a substantial movie all but consumed in the flames of its own madness.