"Honor is his code. Vengeance is his mission. Bloodshed is his only option."Also known as Hong Kong Blood Opera, this is a genre of Hong Kong Action Cinema made popular by directors like John Woo and Ringo Lam and actors such as Chow Yun-fat. Heroic Bloodshed plots are primarily modern-day crime action pieces that focus on revenge, redemption or some kind of conflict between rivals or enemies on both sides of the law, with a special focus on gunplay. There's a very strong theme of honor, loyalty and betrayal in these movies, particularly those made by John Woo. Characters spin, roll, and dive across the room while blasting away during shootouts, often with two guns at once. Often, a good dose of kung fu or other martial arts is also mixed in, especially when actors synonomous with that genre appear. Heroic Bloodshed films (as per the name) are also incredibly violent with lots of blood and high body counts before it's all over. Protagonists are usually honorable criminals or hard-boiled enforcers of either the police or the criminal variety, resulting in very morally ambiguous plots, which makes for some interesting parallels with Film Noir. Not to be confused with old-style martial arts films, nor Wuxia which is Chinese classical fantasy about feuding knights errant using Magical Martial Arts. These films instead prefer the modern cop and gangster milieu, and the martial art of choice is Gun Fu. Except when it's a Feng Shui game, then it's pretty much the same. For more information about the genre, see The Other Wiki's article.
Common subtropes and related tropes:
- Back-to-Back Badasses: If two heroes (or even a hero and a rival) feature in a film, count on at least one instance where they cover each other this way against a horde of mooks.
- Badass in a Nice Suit: The attire of choice for many assassins, heroic and villainous gangsters, high ranking cops and the like.
- Badass Longcoat: The other major attire of choice for characters, usually open like the wings of an angel of death.
- Bash Brothers
- Blood Brothers: A holdover from the Chinese cinematic and literary tradition — two men who are sworn to each other and will go through hell and high water for each other. Actual blood relation optional.
- Bloodless Carnage: Often averted — this genre is called "Blood Opera" for a reason!
- Bloodstained Glass Windows: Ever since The Killer, church shootouts have shown up on occasion in these movies.
- Blown Across the Room
- Bottomless Magazines
- Christian themes and imagery. And don't think it's just for show because of the Asian origins of the genre. John Woo is an actual practicing Lutheran.
- Cool Shades: Heroes and villains alike tend to wear these.
- Cowboy Cop: If a cop appears in one of these films as one of the heroes, he's more likely than not to be one of these.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: A lot of Hong Kong gangster movies, particularly the likes of The Young and the Dangerous, tend to glorify the triad lifestyle.
- Disturbed Doves
- Faceless Goons / Mooks
- Gun Fu
- Gun Kata
- Guns Akimbo: Though single-gunning is quite common in these films, it isn't uncommon to see a hero or villain go both guns blazing.
- The Gunslinger: Type C
- Hitman with a Heart: If an assassin isn't on the side of evil in one of these movies, he's likely to be one of these where it counts.
- Honor Before Reason
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Many mooks tend to be lousy shots, though they do sometimes land hits.
- Leap and Fire
- Manly Tears: Heroes in Blood Opera are not shy about letting their emotions show.
- Man in White: Usually the hero or the villain. Count on the white suit to get covered in blood.
- Mexican Stand Off: Most often between two people at point blank range, though three or even more-way standoffs are common.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Count on at least one relationship along these lines, particularly between heroes and villains.
- Smoking Is Cool: This genre started back in the 80s, when smoking was still a thing, and even now, some movies still have their heroes and villains smoke.
- Sympathy for the Devil
- The Syndicate
- The Triads and the Tongs: They're both heroes and villains in these movies.
- Throw-Away Guns: Many characters in these films, upon emptying their guns, will often dump them and draw new ones instead of reloading them.
- Unnecessary Combat Roll
- White Shirt of Death
- Yakuza and related tropes: The Japanese are no strangers to the genre either.
Examples of this trope:
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Anime and Manga
- Hellsing, while not explicitly falling into this category, draws strongly from it, with cool gunfighting and heavy moral ambiguity.
- Black Lagoon may seem to be this genre at first, but on closer observation, it plays the cynical subtropes straight while mercilessly demolishing the idealistic ones. Unlike true Heroic Bloodshed, the series holds absolutely no faith in honor, hope or fundamental human decency.
- Downplayed in the English dub, where The Western aesthetics are played up instead.
- Noir and Madlax are Bee Train studio's loving, if distinctly feminine, tribute to a once distinctly masculine genre.
- Cowboy Bebop, specifically storylines involving Spike, Vicious and the Red Dragon.
- Although short on gunplay, the extreme balletic violence and perversely honourable moral element of the blood opera was part and parcel of Crying Freeman — for the superpowered leader of a vastly powerful criminal conspiracy, Freeman Yoh spends a lot more time battling criminals and indirectly aiding the downtrodden than actually committing the kind of deeds which keep a crime syndicate afloat — it's like a mafia film which is all 'doing favours' and no 'collecting on debts'.
- Gungrave, particularly the part that takes place in the past, is a quintessential Heroic Bloodshed anime (the present-day part is similar story-wise, but its style changes to account for various hypertech wonders).
- A Better Tomorrow - directed by John Woo. Stars Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun-Fat in his breakout role.
- A Better Tomorrow II - directed by John Woo. Stars Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung, Chow Yun-Fat and Dean Shek.
- A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon - directed by Tsui Hark. Stars Chow Yun-Fat, Anita Mui and Tony Leung Ka-Fai.
- The Big Hit - Mixes several of the usual Heroic Bloodshed tropes with wacky comedy.
- Bullet in the Head - directed by John Woo, and featuring Tony Leung, Jacky Cheung, and Simon Yam.
- The Crow - This movie has many elements of Heroic Bloodshed, particularly in the boardroom and church shootouts. Brandon Lee's final movie.
- Drug War by Johnnie To zig-zags this trope. The influence is obvious: At first glance it features many of the usual themes around loyalty, betrayal, family honour and Due to the Dead. However, it eschews the operatic style in favour of a far more gritty and realistic approach, both in regards to the gunplay and to the story in general. Prior to the last third of the movie, there are very few action scenes at all, and many of the main character's actions are motivated primarily by self-preservation rather than any higher ideals.
- Equilibrium - Kurt Wimmer pays homage to the genre by means of inventing a new gunplay-based martial art.
- Face/Off - John Woo's best American flick, starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage as both hero and villain.
- Hard Boiled - directed by John Woo, featuring Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.
- John Wick - starring Keanu Reeves, a retired hitman seeks revenge against those who wronged him, while wearing a nice suit, feats of gun fu and jujitsu? Definitely.
- Hard Target - John Woo's first American movie, starring the "Muscles from Brussels," Jean Claude Van Damme.
- Broken Arrow - directed by John Woo, starring John Travolta and Christian Slater.
- Heroic Trio follows this genre to the letter with the possible exception of gunplay. Only one of the girls uses guns.
- Hit Team
- The Infernal Affairs Trilogy - directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Andy Lau. One of the more cynical series.
- The Killer - directed by John Woo, and starring Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee.
- Mission: Impossible II - directed by John Woo, starring Tom Cruise.
- The Matrix - The Wachowskis pay homage to the genre in a big way, particularly in the first movie.
- The Mummy Trilogy - Stephen Sommers just loves to pay homage to this genre, in particular the ranged combat style of the O'Connell family's men.
- No Tears for the Dead
- The Raid and its continuation, Berandal - directed by Gareth Evans. In recent years, probably one of the best-known films of this genre, at least for Western audiences.
- The Replacement Killers - directed by Antoine Fuqua and produced by John Woo. Stars Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino.
- Heroes Shed No Tears - the first gunplay movie directed by John Woo, released after A Better Tomorrow.
- Hero of Tomorrow - directed by Poon Man Kit starring Max Mok.
- Dragon Family - directed by Lau Kar Leung and starring Alan Tam, O Chun Hung and Max Mok.
- Legacy of Rage - directed by Ronny Yu, noted for being Brandon Lee's first movie.
- City on Fire - directed by Ringo Lam, starring Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee, noted for inspiring Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.
- Killer's Romance - directed by Phillip Ko Fei and starring Simon Yam. Based on Crying Freeman.
- Rich and Famous - directed by Taylor Wong and starring Chow Yun-Fat and Andy Lau.
- Tragic Hero - directed by Taylor Wong and starring Chow Yun-Fat, Andy Lau and Alan Tam. Was intended as a sequel to Rich and Famous, but ended up getting released first.
- Just Heroes - directed by John Woo, with none of Woo's previous stars, though Danny Lee, who plays in this one, would go on to appear in The Killer.
- Once a Thief - directed by John Woo, starring Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Cheung and Cheri Chung.
- Full Contact - directed by Ringo Lam, starring Chow Yun-Fat, Simon Yam and Anthony Wong.
- Exiled - directed by Johnnie To, starring Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Roy Cheung, Lam Suet and Simon Yam.
- Return to a Better Tomorrow - Wong Jing's attempt to revive the franchise created by John Woo. Wong Jing being Wong Jing, however, he's not too successful.
- American Yakuza, directed by Frank Cappello and starring Viggo Mortenson, Ryo Ishibashi and Michael Nouri.
- Max Payne
- The Opera mod for Half-Life 2.
- The Yakuza series, like Crying Freeman, uses many of the same story-related tropes as a lot of Heroic Bloodshed films, only it's more of a brawler than a shooter.
- True Crime: Streets of L.A.
- Dead to Rights
- Heroic Bloodshed is one of two main sources of inspiration for Wet (the other is Tarantino movies).
- Shadow Warrior "Be proud Mr.Woo!"
- Sleeping Dogs
- Drake of the 99 Dragons
- Just Cause thanks to the acrobatics and dual wielding.
- Fist of the North Star (2018)