Chow Yun Fat, in his most mythic role, portrays a professional hitman who still plays by the rules. In completing a contract he accidentally blinds a nightclub singer, Sally Yeh. His enormous feelings of guilt soon leads to love, but of course she has no idea that he is the person who blinded her. CYF takes one last job to pay for an operation to restore Sally’s eyesight, but he is betrayed by the triad head, Shing Fui-On, who hired him and now refuses to pay him. In fact, he is intent on killing him because he thinks CYF will betray him. He does not in the least understand that CYF would never betray his code. This sort of honor is lost on him.
At the same time, a cop, Danny Lee, is also after the killer, but soon realizes after CYF saves a little girl’s life that he is no ordinary killer. He relates to his partner, Chang (Kenneth Tsang), that "He is different from other killers. He comes across so calm, acts like he has a dream, eyes filled with passion". Soon a bond grows between the two as they come to realize that they are very much the same even though one is a killer and one is a cop. In one scene, their images become interchangeable through the refracted glass. They eventually team up to fight the triad bad guys.
One of the most interesting characters in the film is Sidney. His character represents honor that has slowly been corroded by time and the corruption of the present day. He is an ex-hitman and friend of CYF, who now is acting as the intermediary between CYF and Shing Fui-On. At one point he betrays CYF, but the shame of this action later leads him to go to the triad head and demand to get the money to pay CYF. In an incredibly powerful scene, Woo edits back and forth between CYF and Danny Lee talking about the loss of honor in the world and Sidney receiving redemption at the brutal hands of Shing Fui-On.
The two main action scenes take place within the last 30 minutes of the film and the action and killing is so overwhelming and stylistic that it soon becomes almost surreal. To many, it all may seem too much. I have lent this tape to friends and they have looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I thought it was one of the greatest films ever made. And I can understand that. Woo holds nothing back - no half measure, no sentiment not laid bare. Woo utilizes a number of film techniques such as slowing down the speed, freeze frame, cutting out the sound, religious symbolism and music to wonderful effect and to truly mythologize CYF. The musical cues and sentiments and themes might appear overly dramatic to a western audience. But to me, it is all heart – from the opening sequence to the final almost Shakespearean tragically ironic ending.
My rating for this film: 10.0