So if you’ve ever perused this blog, you’ll by now be made aware of the fact that I am a massive fan of foreign films, be they good or bad. I’m fascinated by the similarities and differences of American versus Foreign, and how the blending of the various cultures can often create an overall appealing movie. People are generally the same from continent to continent; the same gripes, hopes, dreams, and setbacks. But the subtle cultural differences seem to pop creatively on film. My latest pick is a bad boy out of South Korea titled “A Better Tomorrow”, which is a 2010 remake of the original 1986 Hong Kong classic that featured shoot ’em up action titan Yun-Fat Chow. In short, the film centers around two brothers, separated at a young age, that end up re-connecting years down the road. One brother chose the police force and the other followed a life of crime, so we can predict the inevitable clashes that arise with that; in addition, we have the usual double crossing bad guy that you end up hating by the end of the movie. While I’m generally opposed to remakes and ‘re-imaginings’, this is a solid version of a true gem.
Below, the horribly dubbed original:
Danger infested jungle? Check. Damsel in distress? You know it. Stylized heroes and cringe worthy villains? Absolutely. These and many other tried and true cinematic cliches are proudly on display in 1939’s Five Came Back, an archetypal RKO Radio Pictures disaster story said to be the forefather of the now popular genre. And as you can guess from the not so subtle title, Five Came Back. But who? The story revolves around the events of a plane crash; en route to Panama, a plane goes down in a fierce storm and plunges violently through the thick canopy of the Amazon jungle. When the plane crashes, all aboard are left to scratch about and fend for survival in the jungle, with the usual love and drama and intrigue craftily interwoven. Relationships bud and dwindle under the jungle sun, and the heroes struggle in earnest to repair the downed jet.
Once there, the story begins to flesh out the individual stories of the intriguing cargo of nine characters, including a beautiful woman with a sketchy reputation, a gangster and his young nephew, an elderly married couple, a convicted anarchist and his handler, and a young couple eloping. And as time passes, each of them must endure their own personal setbacks and triumphs as they attempt to clear a path through the brush and repair the damaged aircraft.
Being an RKO Radio Pictures production, it’s considered somewhat of a B movie, however it plays like a solid blockbuster. Although handily cheesy at times, the plot plays out quite smoothly, the acting is up to par, you really learn to care about the fate of the characters and root for their survival, and the action builds and develops with intensity.
Featuring great early performances by Lucille Ball, Chester Morris, and Kent Taylor, Five Came Back is a must watch for any film aficionado. Check it out!
Listen in on the latest episode of Media Rewind as Dustin and I discuss the testosterone infused action fest that is ‘The Expendables’!
Action and violence were hallmarks of 80’s cinema; the sweepingly realistic tone of the 1970’s gave way to the over the top action narratives of the early to mid 80’s, which in turn led to the increasingly violent tones of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Elaborately staged shootouts, the ‘one man army’ phenomenon, astronomical body counts dripping with gore, and the gritty cop theme were all huge theatrical elements that gained remarkable popularity. Hollywood films were flush with aggressive action pictures, but Hong Kong had its own thriving film industry, and its own cache of bankable stars. John Woo led the pack of filmmakers, producing such critical masterpieces as Hard Boiled, and A Better Tomorrow, and the ruggedly smooth Chow Yun-Fat, seemingly born with two guns in his hands, was his preferred leading man.
The Killer is the story of Triad hit man Ah Jong (elegantly played by Chow Yun-Fat), who accidentally blinds a singer during his final hit; afterward, he frequents the club where she performs, and they slowly develop a friendship. He eventually accepts one final job in order to cover the cost of a corneal transplant to save her eyesight. The film is riddled with thrilling car chases, brutal games of cat and mouse, ambushes, spectacularly bloody shoot outs, and the mutual respect earned by the dogged detective that is hot on Ah Jong’s trail.