Suffering a cold today.  You know you’re miserable when you don’t want to eat fresh-baked brownies because you know you won’t be able to taste the chocolate goodness through the congestion.  That, my friends, is the epitome of sadness.

A hospital full of nurses and cripple patients getting gunned down?  That, my friends, is entertainment.

John Woo hasn’t gotten much love for his American-era films, and, to be honest, I’ve only seen Face/Off, which, I understand, is one of his better ones.  (It also introduced me to Alessandro Nivola, so I’m grateful for that, at least.)  But perhaps it’s better merely because it directly imported Woo’s best Hong Kong moves:  slow-motion dove (The Killer)?  Check.  Gunfight with a young child in someone’s arms (Hard Boiled)?  Check.  Now if they had only brought over Tony Leung, it would have been a magical trifecta.

It’s tempting to blame the big-budget American film industry as a huge, homogenizing hopper.  Imagine it as a pot of boiling water. John Woo’s Hong Kong films are like raw eggs, gooey and messy and full of variations on the same string of proteins, but once he was plunged into the American pot, his films started coming out the same.  Perfectly formed, yet unfortunately bland.  Like hard-boiled eggs.  Most are completely edible, but a few have that weird green ring around the yolk that leave a sulfurous aftertaste in your mouth.

In any case, in the ultimate Hong Kong cool-off between Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung, I’d have to give it to Tony.  He’s such an expressive actor, and he brings a sensitivity to his role.  Does he kill people with tears in his eyes.  Why, yes, indeed he does.  Chow Yun-Fat, to me, is a more physical actor — his body barrels into scenes, triggers twitching away.  He must have the most perfectly formed index fingers ever.  But no one can smoke a cigarette like Tony Leung can.  Not since Marlene Dietrich has nicotine addiction been so sensual.

Me, I’ve never smoked a cigarette a day in my life, though before the current bans for smokeless bars and clubs, I most certainly inhaled my share of second-hand smoke.  Much of it is a pose, after all — at my favorite late-night coffeeshop in Denver, Paris on the Platte, cigarettes seemed permanently glued into the fingers of the dark and dispossessed.  Oh!  The lingering cruelties of life.  All I wanted was a pitcher of Earl Grey cambric and a tuna melt (or possibly a French dip) but never had the appropriate world-weary pose (despite the outfits of revolving Skinny Puppy t-shirts).  Too straight-edge and goody-two-shoes.  I longed to be yet did not have the lungs to be one of the deep, wounded souls around me, who stared into the curls of smoke like they had once killed a man and were now planning their escapes to Antarctica.

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