Title: A Better Tomorrow (英雄本色)
Director: John Woo
Mark Lee…. Chow Yun-fat
Sung Tse-ho…. Ti Lung
Kit, Mark’s brother…. Leslie Cheung
Sung Tse-Ho (Ti Lung) works for the Triad, whose principal operation is printing and distributing counterfeit US bank notes. Ho is a respected member of the organization and is entrusted the most important transactions. Mark Lee (Chow Yun-Fat), another high-ranking member of the group, is his best friend and partner in crime.
Ho has a younger brother, Kit (Leslie Cheung), who aspires to become a police officer. Ho keeps his criminal life secret from his brother and encourages Kit’s career choice. However, Ho’s father is aware of Ho’s criminal activities and appeals to him to go straight, lest he end up in conflict with his younger brother one day.
Ho is sent to Taiwan by the boss to complete a deal. Shing (Waise Lee), a new member, is sent along as an apprentice. The deal turns out to be a trap by the Taiwanese gang. A shootout ensues in which Ho and Shing flee, pursued by local law enforcement. Ho eventually surrenders to the police in order to buy time for Shing to escape. After reading about Ho’s capture in the newspaper, Mark finds and kills the Taiwanese gang leader and his bodyguards. However, Mark’s leg is shot in the gunfight, leaving him crippled.
While Ho is in prison, Kit and his father are attacked by an assassin; in the struggle, Kit’s father is killed. Just before dying, he pleads with Kit to forgive his brother.
Ho is released from prison three years later. Remorseful and determined to start a new life, he finds work as a driver for a taxi company, run by another ex-con. Ho spots Mark during one of his shifts; in contrast to Mark’s letters, he realizes in horror that Mark has been reduced to an errand boy and janitor for Shing (who is the new leader of the Triad and set up the trap in Taiwan). During an emotional reunion, Mark asks Ho to return to his underworld lifestyle to take revenge on Shing and reclaim their positions in the organization, but Ho refuses.
Ho seeks Kit out and attempts to reconcile with his brother (who is now a member of the police force), but is rebuffed by Kit, who sees Ho as nothing but a criminal who is responsible for their father’s death. Additionally, Kit is resentful that his familial tie to Ho is preventing him from advancement in the department. In an effort to prove himself to his superiors and further distance himself from the stigma of his brother’s criminal past, Kit becomes obsessed with bringing down Shing’s criminal group, despite Ho’s warnings to stay away from the dangerous case.
Shing finds Ho and presses him to come back to his organization, offering to reinstate Mark if he returns. Ho flatly refuses. Consequently, Shing begins harassing and threatening Ho in order to get him to return, including attacking his co-workers at the taxi company, and having Mark beaten severely. Ho is dismayed but is still hesitant to take action. Meanwhile, Kit learns of a major deal being conducted by Shing and plans to take independent action against the criminals.
Ultimately, Shing’s escalating violence against his friends, a desire to protect his brother, and an impassioned speech by Mark finally convince Ho to join Mark in taking revenge on Shing…
[synopsis adapted from wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Better_Tomorrow]