Wong Jing gets a lot of flack for being the Hong Kong film industry’s most flagrant plagiarist, but John Woo could easily be criticized for taking credit for other people’s ideas. John has gotten away with it because he mentions in interviews about the people who he takes after, but Jing has never been blessed with an opportunity to reveal his intentions. Then again, he could easily argue that it’s obvious who he borrows from. Unlike Tarantino, Jing has never denied his inspirations (i.e. his origins e.g. premises) and influences (i.e. his ideas e.g. plot points).
As for Woo, Hard-Boiled is his most accessible action movie but not as original as some may think. The gun-in-the-book gag is the figurative son of the one in Golden Queen Commando. There is a scene where Chow Yun-Fat aims at a bullet which is lodged in a pipe. This is the metaphorical daughter of a scene from The Red Circle. The idea of hiding a shotgun in a box of roses is the symbolic foster child of the similar scenes from three classic U.S. films – The Killing, Dog Day Afternoon and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
John’s most critically acclaimed film is The Killer – another film which isn’t as inventive as others think as others think. The idea of using the reflection of sunglasses to see a would-be attacker was adopted from Narazumono. The scene where the cop and the killer pretend to be friends so that a blind woman doesn’t know what’s going on was inspired by Killer Constable. Speaking of which, the male lavatory assassination from the latter has been cited as an influence on Bullet in the Head. However, the scene in Mean Streets nullifies that.
Many people cite Woo’s ingenuity for placing a gun in flower pots for A Better Tomorrow, but that idea was already done in one of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple novels. The novel in question is The Murder at the Vicarage. The difference in Woo’s movie is that there were more guns and more pots but less people using them. Coincidentally, the televised adaptation of Agatha’s novel was released in the same year as A Better Tomorrow but afterwards. It doesn’t end there.
Speaking of 1986’s cinematic releases, Cobra predated A Better Tomorrow in regards to the hero having a matchstick in his mouth while he’s wearing shades. He even wears a black trench-coat. Also, the idea behind someone holding two pistols at once came from a Don Siegel film titled Madigan. M:I-2 borrows the bomb’s pool reflection gimmick from In the Line of Duty 4. Then again, Tom Cruise is a big fan of H.K. movies (it’s often been noted that Tom had about as much to do with John in terms of incorporating ideas in M:I-2). Regardless of his derivativeness, it a shame that Hollywood turned their backs on Woo.