A Better Tomorrow ★★★★½

The last time I wrote here about this one, I talked about the relationship to A Story of Discharged Prisoner and Chang Cheh's brotherhood films. Rewatching it today, I was thinking about the signficance of the casting. Ti Lung was, of course, one of Chang Cheh's main leads of the 70se near the end of his leading man days and opposite to him there was Leslie Cheung who was along with Andy Lau, one of the two main romantic heartthrobs of the era. So old values and new values, Chang Cheh's chivalry and 80s new affluence. The cantonese title "The Essence of Heroes" is very Cheh and refers to Ti Lung and Chow Yun-Fat brotherhood while the english title A Better Tomorrow seen to refer to the actual brothers, to the notion of the passing of generations, the hope that Ti Lung's criminal past will wash clean in Leslie Cheung righteous path. At some point during the final gunfight Waise Lee's villain (the first of many yuppie scum types the actor would play and in some ways as much Cheung's evil double as his brother is his criminal one) tells the young cop that his brother taints him, but under the film's logic the opposite is true, it is him that props Cheung towards true righteous heroism. I keep thinking how much of the film is predicted in the promise of the future, in the idea of moving up and how much it perceives that as a sham, this is after all a film predicted in tainted money, whose most iconic non-gunfight scene is Chow burning a cigarrette with a bill. It seems to me important to ask what better tomorrow could be that.

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