Chow Yun-Fat stars as Tequila, a cop hell-bent on
bringing down the gun smugglers responsible for his partner's
death. He teams up with an undercover cop whose secret identity
as a Triad hitman hangs by a thread. The film raises gunfights
to an art form with some of the most celebrated action sequences
ever including a close-quarters teahouse shootout and a monumental
firefight through the halls of a packed hospital.
I was never a John Woo convert even after the success of his
“A Better Tomorrow” and “Once Upon A Thief”.
To me back then, he’s just another HK director to watch
out for although I personally caught most of his stuff on
VHS or the big screen. That is until the release of “Hard
Boiled” in 1992.
can still recall the original one-sheet which featured a heavily
armed Chow Yun-Fat carrying a baby. Tony Leung was nowhere
to be seen. But Leung played a crucial role in “Hard
Boiled” as a police informer infiltrating an arms smuggler
den. “Infernal Affairs”? Not really but Leung
is good in both and Woo’s treatment of his character,
Alan in a way surpassed that of the hard-boiled cop, Tequila
is sort of a tortured soul. Trapped as a right-hand man of
his triad boss and also answerable to his superintendent (Philip
Chan). What is loyalty and betrayal? He’s a man that
is wanted by both the triad and police. A loner who lived
on a yacht. And there’s an interesting line said by
his character towards the end of the movie that best describes
with the multi-façades Chow Yun-Fat around, it’s
hard to lure the attention of the audience away from him.
As Tequila, he’s brave, impulsive and loyal to his killed
buddy. And the sentimental side of him plays the sax. Nobody
beats Chow in terms of coolness when he fires his semi-automatic.
He’s the perfect hero under the hands of Woo.
merely brush “Hard Boiled” off as another action
movie is a huge understatement. Woo opens the movie with little
fanfare, the credit listed only 3 names: Chow, Leung and Woo
accompanied with a jazzy score. Quiet before the big storm
they say. And viola! There’s a huge unforeseen shootout
at a traditional HK teahouse shortly after. Rounds and rounds
of ammunition are expended. While guns are hidden in plant
pots in “A Better Tomorrow”, we have guns hidden
under bird cages in “Hard Boiled’!
that point on, “Hard Boiled” got me glued. The
action and drama never stopped and the character, Alan is
introduced bringing us to the pivotal point of the plot. For
a 120 minutes movie, the action is excessive but that’s
the selling point of “Hard Boiled”.
action gets more intense as the plot furthers, if getting
endless rounds of bullets being pumped into a single entity
is not enough, how about blowing up motorcycles with the flaming
riders still on it? The crazy stunts by Philip Kwok (he played
one-eye in the movie as well) in addition to Woo’s over
the top ballistic guns choreography are an eye-opener. The
warehouse shootout surpassed the prior setup in the teahouse
but still, Woo managed to top it off with a finale that will
definitely goes to the Guinness Book of Records for having
the largest body counts and pyrotechnics if there’s
any nominations for that.
to Woo and Terence Chang’s interviews in the features
and look for the scene that was shot in a single long take
with Alan and One-eye. There’s also an amusing shot
of Tequila and Alan going into a lift and continue the shooting
after the lift open it’s door presumably on another
floor. Catch is the whole sequence was shot in an abandoned
Coca-cola plant which contains only one level. To portray
the various hospital floorings, the crew has to clean and
change the backdrop of that shot in a matter of seconds.
The release of ”Hard Boiled” marks the departure
of John Woo’s career in Hong Kong. With the assistance
of his producer friend, Terence Chang, he shifted to Hollywood
and debut with Jean Claude Van-Damme’s “Hard Target”
in 1993. The best John Woo’s Hollywood feature remains
“Face/Off” in my opinion. But that’s another
story. I shall leave it to you on how you view his achievements
moderate success in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia, “Hard
Boiled” truly is Woo’s trademark and imprints
all over minus the white doves fortunately. It’s an
amazing display of pyrotechnics in its greatest glory that
will send your head spinning and urging for more.
A Baptism of Fire: A Featurette with Iconic Director
John Woo – If you can get John Woo to talk
for more than 30 minutes, isn’t it better to do a complete
commentary for the movie. But anyway Woo did contribute some
interesting anecdotes about the making of the movie liked
how he wanted the explosions to be bigger and how the original
story of a psychopath poisoning babies was abandoned. There
aren’t any subtitles provided and to make things worse,
Woo’s English tend to be slurring at times so you need
to pay close attention to what he has to say.
In Crime: An Interview with Producer Terence Chang
– Woo’s close friend and producer Terence Chang
is far more articulate and an engaging speaker as well (he’s
a producer mind you). Chang touches on how he has to tone
down Woo’s request for more explosions so as to lower
the budget and in the end, incurred Woo’s black face
for days. Secondly, they shot the teahouse sequence without
a script and the passing of scriber Barry Wong doesn’t
help either. Interesting tidbits.
Imitates Life: An Interview with Co-star Philip Chan
– We know Philip Chan as an actor but not knowing the
fact that he’s an ex-superintendent in the 70’s
specializing in undercover cops. Cool.
Boiled Location Guide – A pretty babe showing
us the various locations used for “Hard Boiled”.
That’s eye-candy. The traditional teahouse has been
pulled down to become a shopping mall. That’s pity.
Dog Bites Again: An Interview with Leading Villain Kwok Choi
– Philip Kwok or sometimes credited as Kwok Choi talks
about his experiences working with John Woo and on “Hard
Boiled”. Interestingly, they spent laborious weeks in
the enclosed Coca-cola plant filming the finale and warehouse
sequence that they have to sleep on the set. And the appearance
of the food caterer knocking on the door is the only indication
Gallery (Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer & US Promotional
Trailer) – The original and US trailers round
up the rest of disc two.
is definitely the best “Hard Boiled” DVD transfer
so far although there are still occasional artifacts
To be less judgmental, Dragon Dynasty and Genius Products
had lifted the original material to greater heights. I can’t
wait to see what they can come up with on HD or Blu-ray though.
audio comes only in the original Cantonese language and in
dubbed English. The Mandarin track is not available here.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is sharply enhanced to give a
total blowout on the surround speakers.
by Linus Tee