The Action Mutant…
knows good Woo when he sees it!
review by Joe Burrows
For those that have only experienced John Woo’s work in the U.S. (or “Ugh, Shit!”), this is what you need to see. A great beginners point for anyone, as it serves as a great litmus test for anyone not sure if they can handle the constant carnage. While The Killer is probably his most affecting film and A Better Tomorrow broke down the door for him, John Woo’s Hard Boiled is the Hong Kong thrill ride often mentioned. This was Woo’s final film before his departure into the abyss of America and what a way to leave!
The Plot, as it was:
Chow Yun-Fat is Inspector Yuen (aka “Tequila”), a cop whose partner has just died during a shootout with Triad gangsters. He is continuously berated by his chief (Philip Chan) and is determined to take out the Triad by himself. Meanwhile, Tony (Tony Leung from Hero and Tokyo Raiders) has turned his back on his crime family to join the Triad. It turns out that he is a police informant looking to take the Triad down from the inside. Eventually, Tony and Yuen team up to take on the Triad and its trigger happy boss Johnny Wong (Anthony Wong) in a monumental hospital standoff.
Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
How many words for awesome are there? Whatever the number, they all pertain to this movie. Hard Boiled may not only be the most violent action movie ever but arguably the best one ever. There’s actually a plot, some character depth and plenty of Woo’s trademark pathos plays to go along with the mayhem. Yun-Fat seems to have the perfect expression for each of those situations and he delivers energy in every scene he’s in. But honestly, everyone came to the party for the gunplay and it does not disappoint. Everyone duels with their guns like martial artists would with their appendages and the result is some of the most beautiful violence ever filmed. Try to keep your mouth closed when Yun-Fat slides down a banister and takes out 5 guys with two guns or when Leung and Philip Kwok (the eye patch clad Mad Dog) jump over counters and other furniture while shooting at each other. There is so much ingenuity bursting about that the film doesn’t feel like its 2+ hour run time. I’m done gushing now. Kinda.
Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Director John Woo plays Mr. Woo (how about that!), the bartender/former cop at the jazz club.
Body Count/Violence: 307!!! Honestly, I couldn’t keep track. I lost count at about 76 and that was just the first 45 minutes! Apparently, this had the record for most deaths in a film at one time and I will not contend that. I’m surprised the number wasn’t higher! There is just a seemingly endless array of bodies flying and blood spraying all over in slow motion. The ending sequence at the hospital lasts almost an hour and more than likely makes for over half of the count. Other films may be more known for their violence but there’s no topping this for sheer numbers and mass chaos.
(Note: This is not my count; it is listed at IMDB. I usually count these films myself but I honestly gave up on this one and just watched it. I know when a task is too daunting and this was one of those times. I may try again some time in the future but this is the number to go with now.)
Sexuality/Nudity: Unless people getting shot is actually sex, then no.
Language/Dialogue: Pretty strong at times, though not constant.
How bad was it?:
It is nearly unanimous that this is a modern day Action masterpiece. Most agree that The Killer was better due to it having more depth and drama but most consider this Woo’s most action packed opus.
Did it make the studio’s day?:
Made for $4 million (HK) by Golden Princess and released there in 4/16/92, Hard Boiled grossed $19.7 million in its Hong Kong run. It was released in New York on 6/18/93.
Entertainment value: *****/*****
Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.