Despite directing with one of the most distinct voices in action-movie history, John Woo’s evolution is among the most amazing elements of a career-best known for blazing barrels, shadow selves, and “heroic bloodshed.” To celebrate the Hong Kong legend’s 75th birthday, Be Reel looks back at a career that took off so dynamically in 1986 with “A Better Tomorrow” that it altered Hong Kong fashion and movie-going practices. Our brilliant guest and Woo expert Karen Fang shares all those details, plus a scholarly look at how Woo reckons with honor, hyper-violence, and portrayals of the Hong Kong police.

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After the interview with Karen, our discussion dwells in a sweet spot of Woo’s oeuvre—1992 to 1997—when he maxed out the scope of his Hong Kong street operas with “Hard Boiled” (1992) and then transitioned to inimitable American shoot-em-ups like “Hard Target” (1993) and, more importantly, “Face/Off” (1997). Other highlights of today’s pod include “John Woo’s (Unofficial) Rules of Aerial Gunfire” and an extended appreciation of Chow Yun-fat. All said, happy birthday to a legend; may your dove budget never dwindle.

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