Oldboy! The Killer! Hard-Boiled! Death by Hammer! Classic Asian Thrillers!

You know this image. You must – this is one of the best movie thrillers ever made! Well, and this one as well!

These are two iconic images, and a great starting off point for some classic Asian action!

Oldboy –

This is the classic Korean thriller – with one of the most intense first ten minutes of any film ever made! It begins with a man who goes on a drunken bender one night, only to wake up trapped in a hotel room. For 15 years.

Then, he’s suddenly set free. The opening ten minutes of this movie will suck your eyeballs out, so put them back in and enjoy Korean melodrama at its finest. Director Chan-wook Park is a brilliant filmmaker – his is the kind of aggressive, no holds barred filmmaking that many of our American movies lack right now.

It has a number of jaw-dropping moments, but perhaps the most notable is the fight scene that involves….well, let just say this: You’ll never walk down a hallway with a ball-peen hammer the same way again…

As our protagonist tracks down those who imprisoned him, we meet a number of characters, including a shy young woman who helps him on his quest…

And the bodies pile up until we find out why he was imprisoned…

This is brilliant, melodramatic filmmaking of the highest order – a classic action film.


Four live octopodes were eaten for the scene with Dae-su in the sushi bar, a scene which provoked some controversy abroad. Eating live octopus in Korea is commonplace although it is usually sliced first.

When the film won the Grand Prix at Cannes, the director thanked the octopodes along with the cast and crew.


This is the second one of director Chan-wook Park’s “Revenge Trilogy”. The first is “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.” The third is “Lady Vengeance.”

This is a modern masterpiece – and if you want to go back twenty years, you can discover these classics:


John Woo has made a number of great films, both in Hong Kong and in the US (like the Travolta/Cage “Face/Off”), but this double bill celebrates his two greatest achievements!

The Killer.

“The Killer” tells the story of a hit man trying to make amends for a horrible mistake he makes on the job. Oh, and a bunch of guys want him dead.

Chow Yun-Fat stars as the conflicted “Killer”, who wants to make amends for his mistake – while on the run from his enemies. This is the movie that showcased Director Woo’s love of close-up “point and shoot” gun play:

Woo improvised all of the action sequences on the set, with the actors, stuntmen and stunt director. He never used storyboards, partly to prevent his ideas from being stolen, partly because, according to the DVD commentary, Woo prefers to “work as an artist, like a painter. I want to show where my mood takes me.”

When Woo planned non-action scenes, he often changed things at the last minute. For instance, most of the dialogue in the apartment when Sydney double-crosses Jeff was improvised.

By the way, you can find countless shots of the two protagonists pointing guns at each other, even while lying on the ground!

This is one great, bloody melodrama – with some of the most amazing actions sequences ever captured on film.

In fact, one of the only films that rivals it for pure violent action is the other John Wood classic:

Hard-Boiled. This is one crazy ride!

Mobsters are smuggling guns into Hong Kong. The police orchestrate a raid at a teahouse where an ace detective loses his partner. That sequence features Yun-Fat’s classic “bannister blast!”

Like many of Woo’s other films, elements of the film’s action sequences were improvised, such as the famous “staircase slide” in the teahouse. Yun-Fat Chow came up with the idea of using flour in the climax of the teahouse shootout.

This film ends with a 45 minute battle inside a hospital – specifically the nursery – as you can see from this Hong Kong poster:

More than 200 guns were used in the film, all of which were real. Due to Hong Kong’s strict gun laws, the weapons had to be imported specially from England and inspected by the HK police before they could be used on set. The production also had to import a substantial quantity of blank ammunition; in total, over 100,000 rounds of blank ammunition would be fired during the filming of the movie.

“Hard Boiled” is the most over-the-top, action-packed movie I have ever seen.

The total body count in the movie: 307!

These are also Chow Yun-Fat’s greatest moments in film: he is a riveting action star! And now for a new classic action film:

13 Assassins. Director Takashi Miike rules!

Japanese Director Takashi Miike has made some of the most controversial films ever, such as “Ichi The Killer” and the thriller “Audition”, both of which I can recommend. Here is his latest, a classic film with depth, emotion, and tons of action!

A group of assassins come together for a suicide mission to kill an evil lord.

This is a GREAT film – imagine “The Magnificent Seven” with Ninjas….and a well-told story of honor and betrayal.

Did I mention that these 13 Ninja Assassins kick non-stop ass for the last 45 minutes of the movie…how can you go wrong?

Categories: Action Films, Awards, Extreme Asian Cinema, Foreign Films, Movies, Obscure Movies, Revenge Movies, Tokyo!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. Ichi The Killer is one of the strangest movies I have ever seen. I haven’t finished it all yet. I had to stop when the “slicing in half” scene happened. Very over the top, but I can’t say the movie isn’t interesting. I tried to watch Hard Boiled when I was much younger, but couldn’t tolerate it. I have a feeling I wasn’t yet used to subtitles completely. I am going to watch all of these based on the descriptions you gave. Especially looking forward to Old Boy. That is a crazy cool concept for a movie. Not going to ask how he survived for 15 years in one room – because I don’t want to ruin the magic 🙂 Can’t wait to watch that.


    • good point on Ichi – it’s a brutal movie…Old Boy is terrific, and I love a number of John Wood films like A Better Tomorrow – and a new Korean thriller I wrote about called “I Saw The Devil” – challenging but expertly made



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