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The Killer (John Woo, 1989)

An empathic assassin tries to perform his final job to get the money to save the eyesight of one of the innocent bystanders injured during a former murder.


There are many great things about this movie, but I was especially astounded by the editing and have looked at a sequence of scenes in particular.


When Ah Jong goes to kill his final victim, the police force is also shown. Their job is to protect the (obviously scumbag) rich guy from being shot or attacked. They fail gloriously at their job.


The first scene starts with the police officer receiving instructions to protect the VIP. Officer "Small B" gets the file on his desk, then we cut to the head of the force giving some information on their protection job on a long dolly shot. The dragon boat race is intercut with this scene, alternating between long lens and slow motion shots. At the same time "Small B" and his assistant are shown in a 2-shot - effectively separating them from the anonymous police "mob".

The second scene starts with a bunch of dragon boat shots - lots of slow motion and no music. There is a small scene with the VIP arriving and exiting the car, cut against "Small B" and his assistant. Again, effectively, separated. 

Continually intercut with documentary footage of the boat race, the assassin and the VIP arrive at their positions at the same time. This part is tied together by the sound design, with crowds, boats and speaker announcements.

The scene where the VIP greets the people in the boats is the only one where he is connected to the boat race. His shots are mostly long lens: the POV of the assassin waiting on one of the boats. His reactions (or rather: lack thereof) are shown in closeup and super-closeups.

When he picks up the gun, there is a sequence of interesting camera angles. Straight - closeup on hands - a shot practically from above and a low angle shot in slow motion.

For a short time the story moves with the VIP - when he is given the paint to put the final paint touches on the boat. The camera remains with him and shows close-ups of his paint strokes. Suddenly, the two hands holding drum sticks, patiently waiting for a signal are shown. Together with the music this heightens the tension of that moment.

After about 8 cuts the final drop of paint has been placed and the drum starts playing. There is fierce intercutting of Ah-Jong's motioneless super closeup and the hands that beat the sticks. The tempo of the cuts rises and suddenly, the assassin jerks up the gun, aims and shoots the VIP.






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