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A Better Tomorrow 2018 Film

Updated on January 27, 2018
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If you haven’t tried this genre, you absolutely must

I’m finding out that I’m starting to like the “Action-adventure” factor associated with Mandarin films.

Lately, these types of films have been making an entrance into the US market, via the Hawaii film market. Last month, I saw Bleeding Steel, which has its own Hubpage, so please feel free to visit my Feed. Around this time in 2017, I saw The Devotion of Suspect X, which was also done in a similar storytelling fashion.

I didn’t see any of the other 3 previous films in this series, so I didn’t have a basis for comparison. At the end of the film, there is an English sub-title of “Based on A Better Tomorrow (1986).”


A little film backgrounder

Having seen Uncle Lawrence on Den of Thieves’ Premiere Night, he and I did a little preFilm research on A Better Tomorrow, and his online source showed that this film is a remake of John Woo’s film series from the 1980s. Which would align with the ending credits of the latest installment.

Here is another trend in Chinese filmmaking, is to take a concept from many decades prior, and make it somehow different.

But, how different?

John Woo’s three versions vs. Ding Sheng’s A Better Tomorrow 2018

In case you’re not familiar with this genre, it was categorized as a Hong Kong film, because at the time, the first film was released in Hong Kong on August 2, 1986. Six days later it debuted in Taiwan. During subsequent years, A Better Tomorrow made its rounds through various International Film Festivals: Berlin, AFI Los Angeles, Turin (Italy), Helsinki (Finland), Fantasporto (Portugal), Panorama of European Cinema (Greece), with a return to Hong Kong in March 2016.

  • Nominated in 5 categories at the annual Hong Kong Film Awards, it won the Best Picture Award at HKFA 1987.
  • Mr. Woo wrote, directed and produced the original film.
  • The Music Composer was known for The Way of the Dragon.

What about John Woo’s film series from the 1980s?

With the death of Bruce Lee, Mr. Woo took the Hong Kong concept in a different direction. Seeing the potential of the “Crime Drama” story, most of the 1970s martial arts films were (and still are) popular, but the MovieViewers were looking for something different. As the American cinema market was exploring inner city crime, Mr. Woo was writing about the Hong Kong experience.

Please bear in mind that when these films were released, they were on a lower production budget, and not like the “Blockbusters” that demand larger upfront capital and financing. Recorded in Mono, and shot using 35mm film, the Spherical process was of the focal length used to film, and was normally used in the “Super 35” process.

  • Per Executive Producer John Williamson, “A good way to spot if a movie was shot using spherical lenses is to look for oval shaped light flares that appear when a light shines directly into the camera during a movie.”
  • Lead Actor Patrick McCart sums it up with “Spherical simply means the film was shot with an ordinary round lens.”

Again, the use of spherical vs anamorphic lenses is a stylistic question. The lense type depends on what effect it being sought.


How many films did Mr. Woo make?

For the A Better Tomorrow series, Mr. Woo made two films, specifically:

1. The 1986 film was written, directed and produced by John.

2. The 1987 sequel, called A Better Tomorrow II, was co-written and directed by John.

3. The third film, called A Better Tomorrow 2010, credits Mr. Woo and 2 other writers with the original screenplay. This film had 4 different screenwriters who adapted the original screenplay.

This is a dual-sided Answer, as Mr. Woo was also known for other films. To date, he’s made just under 100 film titles, not including TV series or other appearances.

More about the storyline

The storyline has to be entertaining, in order for the Movie to be well received by the audience.

What’s with the Storyline from A Better Tomorrow series?

The storyline follows a pretty straight-forward pattern.

A film #1 mini-synopsis (written by Tad Dibbern):

“This John Woo film tells the tale of Mark and Ho, friends and couriers for a Hong Kong crime syndicate with a large counterfeiting operation. Ho is double-crossed during a set-up and turns himself in to the police and Mark is shot during the firefight of a retribution hit. The plot is complicated by the fact that Ho's younger brother, Kit, is a rookie cop whose reputation is tarnished by his gangster brother. When Ho gets out of prison, he wants to start a new life, free of crime. Unfortunately, he is haunted by his past, with the crime bosses leaning on him and Mark encouraging him to return to a life of crime as his partner. In typical Woo fashion, the various factions clash and our protagonists engage both the police and the gangsters in a bloody bullet-fest.”

A film #2 mini-synopsis (written by Brian Rawnsley):

“In this sequel, Ho initially refuses to go undercover to bust the gang he used to work for in exchange for his release from prison. He only accepts after his little brother, the policeman Kit accepts the assignment. Meanwhile in New York Ken Gor, the twin brother of Mark Gor from the 1st movie, shelters the boss of the gang, who has had to flee after it is taken over by a more aggressive leadership.”

A film #3 mini-synopsis (written by an Anonymous contributor):

“Arms trafficker Hyuk and Young-chun are practically brothers and nothing can separate them. When the two managed to escape from North Korea, they left behind Hyuk's younger brother Chul. Hyuk can never shake off the guilt as his family was punished for his treason and his mother died in prison. Three years later, Chul finally makes his way to South Korea and join the police force. Hyuk tries to earn the trust and love of his younger brother, but abandonment and betrayal are hard things to forget. Things come to a head when Young-chun pulls Hyuk into doing one last gig for the gang. It happens to be the case that Officer Chul is in charge of. The three brothers meet again one final time.”

What about the Characters from A Better Tomorrow series?

Without interesting characters, portrayed by talented or well-known actors, the story would not go on.

The characters from the ending of Film#1 are in Film#2, which also takes the opportunity to introduce additional characters. This makes sense from a sequel POV, and also with a shoot-out type of film, more than one person is going to die. This would be the time for new characters to be written into the plot.

Interestingly enough, similar storylines about Brothers are used in all three films, which makes it a popular theme in Asian cinema. And, if you don’t believe me, what makes a Marvel Movie so enticing? The Brotherhood concept, or more commonly seen as “Bromance” in TV world.

How was A Better Tomorrow 2018?

A Better Tomorrow 2018 was really good. In my opinion, this film was even better than another opening film this week, Den of Thieves, if you were going to have a “Western of the Week” film category. I had similar feelings in 2016’s toss-up between The Magnificent Seven and Hell or High Water, where the latter was the better Western of the Week.

Script-wise, the newest installment follows more along the 1986 version, originally done by John Woo.

Were there any memorable performances?

Yes, there were very many memorable faces of Asian actors and actresses, whom you’ve seen in other films.

  • The character Zhou Kai is played by Kai Wang, who has acted in other films, most notably The Devotion of Suspect X as Tang Chuan.
  • The character Zhou Chao is Kai’s younger brother, played by Tianyu Ma. He’s appeared in a few films, and has TV credits.
  • The character, who is referred to in the film as “the Taiwanese brother,” is played by Darren Wang, whom I really enjoyed seeing on-screen. Both he and Kai Wang starred in Railroad Tigers, so their brotherhood chemistry is genuine on-screen, as Kai is about 9 years older than Darren. Other than sharing the same last name, I don’t believe the two actors are related.
  • The character Cang, played by Ailei Yu, is another familiar face in Asian cinema.
  • The character Ha Ge, played by veteran actor Suet Lam, is again one of those familiar faces. You might remember his performance in Kung Fu Hustle as the Axe Gang Vice General, as well as various Asian film titles.

Or, were the characters more to formula?

No, the characters were not to formula, as the saying goes. There were representative of people, whom you might know in real life.

Any good action sequences?

Yes, there are some very good action sequences, woven throughout the film.

I would like thank the Picture Car crew and the Camera departments. Some of the interior lighting made several scenes look staged, but the Location lighting was very realistic. As were the guns and Armory used throughout the film. The Golden Gun was a nice way of paying homage to the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun.

Who else was seeing this movie with you?

Being there on an Opening Weekend, for the second Matinee showing, there were other people who showed up, too. The Trio behind me were having their own film comment session, as the film played out, albeit in Mandarin. They were critiquing the film’s characters, and why certain things were happening on-screen. The ladies in the Trio missed the Opening Montage, so many of their questions were summed up in the film’s ending sequences.

What was the general consensus about the film?

The first Matinee showtime was letting out, as I was waiting for my showtime of 5:15pm. Lots of Chinese people left with big smiles on their faces, while some of the local Uncles said “It was good. You know mafi-esto type of film.”

There were several people who wandered into my auditorium, while the Third Act of the film was playing out. Some of them checked the film out, and one of the two wanderers left a few minutes later, while the second wanderer stayed and watched the film, until the Ending Credit Roll. Which is entirely in Chinese characters.

You won’t be lost, because there are Chinese and English sub-titles.

The male audience members who were going into the next showtime looked really excited about the film.

The Film’s Distribution

As of this Hub publishing, the film is currently playing on its last night at both the Consolidated Pearlridge West 12 Theatres, as well as at the Regal Cinemas 18 at Dole Cannery. Both locations had it listed as being MoviePass eligible.

If you like Asian cinema titles, Pearlridge West 12 has four titles this week, a mix of Asian and Filipino films. If you’re in the mood for trying “something different,” then visit this theatre for its vast offerings

I used to see these types of films being offered at Consolidated Theatres’ Ward Cinemas 16, but lately, there have not been many “Foreign Films,” if it must be categorized in this manner. And only for “Programming” reasons, as the saying goes. Multi-cultural films are great, as the Movie Viewer can discover nuances in each culture, and who's being portrayed on-screen.

Here’s the real film question

While composing the Hub content for A Better Tomorrow 2018, I enticed myself into trying to find the previous 3 film titles. I enjoy all films genres (as I appreciate all kinds of music), because if it’s a good piece, the work will stand out. The real film question: Where can I find the other three films in the series?

  • I researched the availability of the previous 3 film titles on Netflix, Hulu and Filmstruck. No luck on any of these paid Streaming channels.
  • I also visited my local Barnes & Noble Media seller, and had them perform two different queries: In-store and Online from their distributors. Let the readers know how this search turned out …
  • With no such luck, and having searched the vast Amazon library, they don’t have access to any of the 3 titles (What? Amazon doesn’t have something? C’mon, Jeff, get it together for the Consumers, and stop trying to conquer the Business users with AWS services!)

I have a few secret tricks in mind (4 more actually) to access the previous 3 films, but I’m not telling you what they are, until it proves successful. Don’t worry, it’s all legal. And, I’ll let you know if I have success in locating these titles, in an upcoming column.

Until next week

This concludes this week’s film reviews. Please check back next week for more film reviews.

Time permitting, I would like to see the two previous Maze Runner films: The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, and the premiere of Maze Runner: The Death Cure. There is a really nice front-of-store display at Barnes and Noble for James Dashner’s latest novel. I was impressed with the glossy, quality paperback edition of the Movie to Book TieIn.

Have a great week, and much aloha, Pam

© 2018 Pam Freeman


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