Heroic bloodshed is a genre of Hong Kong action cinema revolving around stylized action sequences and dramatic themes such as brotherhood, duty, honour, redemption and violence. The term heroic bloodshed was coined by editor Rick Baker in the magazine Eastern Heroes in the late 1980s, specifically referring to the styles of directors John Woo and Ringo Lam. Baker defined the genre as "a Hong Kong action film that features a lot of gun play and gangsters rather than kung fu. Lots of blood. Lots of action." Woo's film A Better Tomorrow is said to have popularized the genre. Woo has also been a major influence in its continued popularity and evolution in his later works, namely Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow 2, and The Killer.
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Protagonists in these films are often good-willed criminals, typically Triad members, hit men, or thieves with a strict code of ethics, which in some cases leads to the betrayal of their employers and the saving of many intended victims. The police officer with a conscience, who cannot be corrupted in any way, is also common, and is usually modeled after the hardboiled detective. Loyalty, family and brotherhood are the most typical themes of the genre. Heroic bloodshed films generally have a strong emotional angle, not only between, but during action sequences.
Pistols and submachine guns are frequently utilized by the heroes due to the light weight they provide, enabling their wielders to move more quickly. They are frequently dual wielded. The heroes are extremely agile and implement rolls, dives, slides, and falls while they duel, making for a graceful, ballet-like performance in the midst of gunfire.
Heroic bloodshed films often end on a downbeat or tragic note with the main heroes either dead, arrested by the police, or severely incapacitated.
Heroic bloodshed films
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- Davies, Steven Paul (2001). A-Z of Cult Films and Film-Makers. Batsford. p. 26. ISBN 0-7134-8704-6.
- Logan, Bey (1996). Hong Kong Action Cinema. Overlook Press. p. 191. ISBN 0-87951-663-1.
- Stokes, Lisa Odham; Michael Hoover (1999). City on Fire: Hong Kong Cinema. Verso. p. 333. ISBN 1-85984-716-1.
- Morton, Lisa (2001). The Cinema of Tsui Hark. McFarland. p. 62. ISBN 0-7864-0990-8.