If this is Friday, it must be time for the Baltimore Film Forum to pitch a little Woo.
Woo, John Woo. That is, the BFF has given the month of January and the day of Friday over to displaying the excessive, wild and crazy works of Hong Kong film director John Woo, the thinking man's answer to Sam Peckinpah.
The series opened last Friday with the delirious "Hard-Boiled," and tonight it will be showing an earlier Woo from way back in 1986, called "Heroes Shed No Tears." This turns out not to be a gangster flick, upon which Woo has made his world reputation, but a war movie. None of the Woo regulars, such as the great Chow Yun-Fat or the sleek Leslie Cheung, are aboard.
The hero, instead, is the tough-looking Eddie Ko, who plays the head of a broadly imagined mercenary unit of Hong Kong exiles, who take a Dirty Dozen-like mission into the Golden Triangle to kidnap a general who is exporting heroin to America.
The movie is exceedingly violent and bloody, but proceeds almost as if it's not. Americans may have trouble adjusting to the cheek-by-jowls juxtaposition of corn-pone humor and bone-deep nihilism amid what appear to be several million dollars' worth of explosions.
Still, Woo insists on imprinting freshness and audacity upon the most well-worn materials in the world. The villain is a Vietnamese officer wounded by Ko who leads a pursuit across war-torn Asia. The brio touch is that the wound is to the eye, which is patched with white gauze and keeps soaking up with blood, like a temperature rising in a thermometer. That's something Quentin Tarentino hasn't thought of yet!
The film will be shown at 8 p.m.; admission is $5 and $4 for BFF members. The Forum is also showing Tsui Hark films on Thursdays, Hark being more of a martial arts fantasist than the hard-edged, gun-nutty Woo. Next Thursday's Hark is "Chine Ghost Story III," also at 8 p.m.