Enough with the Fucking Birds Already: A John Woo Film

John Woo, the directorial guru of action, the master of violence. His stylized action sequences were hip, fresh, and interesting. He slowed down the action to zero in on the gritty details of pain and violence, turning action into art. I like to think of his movies as a gory ballet, expertly choreographed with tight, bone crunching detail. John Woo changed the face of the action movie. Well, that's what I used to think, anyway. Now I think of him as a hack who fucked up a good thing and left any spark of originality he had in the dust of a zillion empty birdcages.

Artists have signatures, a tiny piece of themselves that creeps into all the work they do. True artists are not self-indulgent. Some artists make great art in spite of their self-indulgent little tricks - but not John Woo. His movies have gone from awe inspiring to yawn inspiring because of his silly little obsessions with certain imagery. It's one thing to have a recognizable style. Not everyone can re-invent themselves for each work they create. But John Woo has gone beyond style. Recently his work has degraded into a series of images that can be found in one form or another in almost all of his movies. John Woo has done the unthinkable, the unbelievable. HE is the star of all his movies, even though we never once see his face or hear his voice, it's Woo through and through. The heck with the story, screw the actors, forget the music - his movies are ALL about him.

If you have seen one or two John Woo movies, you no doubt loved them. Great action sequences, neat imagery, fast paced, ooh rah! For those of you who accidentally saw more than two.. the illusion is without a doubt gone. If you are among the lucky few that have never seen a single John Woo film, pick two and no more. This obsevation really comes to a boiling point of sorts after watching Mission Impossible 2.

Some of John Woo's films you may have heard of:

Don't believe me? I bring to you, The Ultimate John Woo Film.

The Back to Back Gun Fight - Antagonist and Protagonist should appear back to back against a wall or mirror, usually engaging in dialog while reloading guns that otherwise contain and endless supply of bullets. Each person should have two guns. When the dialogue ends, they will turn, back away at a 45 degree angle and fire away, guaranteeing they will not hit each other. (Face Off, Hard Target, etc)

The Face to Face Gun Barrel Scene/Standoff - At some point the Antagonist and Protagonist should appear holding gun barrels up to each other's faces in a classic face off. Camera should be spinning around. Very likely both will be out of ammo. (Face Off, Hard Boiled, Broken Arrow, etc)

Dual Wielding Guns - Most of the characters should use two guns, reloading only when it's integreal to the story. If at all possible, there should be a point at which a character tosses his guns aside and yanks a couple more out of his jacket or off the closest dead bad guy. No matter who he kills, their ammo will work in his gun, and the clips will be a perfect fit every time. (MI2, Face Off, Hard Target, Hard Boiled, etc)

The Crossed Arm Gun Maneuver - At least one character needs to cross his arms in front, shooting while running. The more often this happens, the better. (MI2, Face Off, etc)

The Cut - Someone in the movie, preferably the protagonist, should get a big fat slice on his cheek, preferably during the final battle. If it can't be a clean cut, any type of facial injury will do. (MI2, Hard Target, Hard Boiled, etc)

The Boot - SOMEONE better get a boot to the back of the head. In slow motion of course. This will be in the form of a round house kick, one that will level their oponent or send them into a solid object. (MI2, Hard Target, etc)

The Trench Coat - At least one character should wear a big black trench coat that should whip around in the wind in slow motion to the exaggerated sound of snapping fabric. (MI2, Hard Target, Face Off, etc)

The Reflection - At some point in the movie, a key transition scene should fade into or out of a reflection in a pair of sunglasses, a window, smoke or better yet, a mirror. (MI2, Hard Target, Face Off, etc)

The Fucking Birds - At some point in the movie, preferably during a key fight sequence, there must be birds (doves and pigeons are both good), flying in what else.. slow motion. It is better to have the birds somehow involved with the fight scene, flying around the actors heads, but the best situation is to have ALL of that take place in a church. A warehouse will do in a pinch though. Doves should be seen in churches, pigeons in warehouses or other 'dirty' places. (All of them)

Perhaps we'll call our new movie The Hard Boiled Killer Target Woo!

So there ya have it. A John Woo Film(tm) capsulized for your movie watching enjoyment. What? No story you say? No matter. Pretty soon all of his films are just going to be collages of the imagery above. No need for writing or acting - just a bunch of ninnies running around with two guns stashed in their black trench coats that just so happen to be covered in what else? Bird shit.

Comments or questions? birdshit[at]attrition.org

We are not the first to notice some of these trends, but 'Fabkid' missed the fuckin birds! http://members.tripod.com/~FabKid/wootrade.html

An entire Woo site! I bet they don't pick on him like we do. http://www.johnwoo.com/

Own your own John Woo films for fun and birds!

Mission Impossible II (amazon) (imdb)
Face Off (amazon) (imdb)
Broken Arrow (amazon) (imdb)
Hard Target (amazon) (imdb)
Hard Boiled (amazon) (imdb)
The Killer (amazon) (imdb)

Attrition Reviews of MI2!

Punkis Woo's Review

Debris Woo's Review


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