"The Killer" is a fictional film, a chiller-diller thriller from Hong Kong that could have been made by Sam Peckinpah, loaded as it is with balletic violence and gore.
It's also romantic, sentimental and more than a little looney.
This wild yarn begins as a professional killer with a conscience (Asian superstar Chow Yun-Fat) guns down mobsters in a meeting and accidentally blinds a lounge singer (Sally Yeh) in the crossfire.
Stricken with remorse for his deed - blinding the young woman, not killing the gangsters - he vows to do one last hit. Then he will use his $1 million-plus fee to get her a cornea transplant.
Meanwhile, the cop on the case (Danny Lee) vows to get the killer - but, as you might expect, he discovers they aren't so different from each other.
"The Killer" is a wild extravaganza all the way, loaded with thrills and excitement, but it really comes alive when the two confront each other. As they hold guns on each other in the singer's apartment a strange mutual respect begins to grow, gradually developing into a tenuous friendship.
Ultimately, there is the bloodiest shootout since Peckinpah's "Wild Bunch" (with final moments that offer a darkly comic twist on the conclusion of "Duel in the Sun"). It's a good thing these guys have guns that hold about 10,000 bullets per clip.
But writer-director John Woo isn't just into blood bags. He fills the screen with memorable images - from doves in a pristine Christian church to a speedboat chase in the open sea. He builds suspense terrifically. And he's unabashed when it comes to obvious soap opera allusions to "Magnificent Obsession." (You almost expect the killer to become a surgeon for the blind woman he loves.)
Though "The Killer" is strictly for those with a high violence tolerance, it certainly shows up the difference between a well-made film and a piece of trash like "Out for Justice."
"The Killer" is the wildest ride since "Die Hard." (The first one.)
It's rated R, of course, for considerable violence, along with some profanity.