For five years, film critic Scott Tobias compiled "The New Cult Canon" in a regular column for The A.V. Club…
As A Cop, He Has Brains, Brawn, And An Instinct To Kill
John Woo’s Hard Boiled tells the story of jaded detective “Tequila” Yuen (played with controlled fury by Chow Yun-fat). Woo’s dizzying odyssey through the world of Hong Kong Triads, undercover agents, and frenzied police raids culminates unforgettably in the breathless hospital sequence.
The Rouge Cop and the Undercover Cop up against some gangster motherfuckers in John Woo's blueprint on how to make the motherfucker of all motherfuckin' action movies. The Jazz Club. The paperboy. The fuckin' birds at the teahouse. The first time Tequila shoots 2 guns at once. Automatic fuckin' weapons. Staircase ownage. Tequila's toothpick. White as a ghost. A chat with JW. High-tech computers. The last book your fuckin' ass will ever read. Pretty-pretty-oh-so-fuckin'-pretty flowers. Never trust an icky eel. Anthony Wong's hair. Fishin'. The impossible question: Who's a badder badass motherfucker; Mad Dog from Hard Boiled or Mad Dog from The Raid? Motorcycle madness. A grand fuckin' entrance. A Zippo. Paper cranes. Fun on a boat. Fuckin' Foxy. Mad…
Film #24 of Project 90
”Birthdays aren't important when you don't have a real identity.”
Action. No child play. No CGI. Pure, classic and true action. That’s what you’ll find in John Woo’s Hard Boiled. Add the glamorous look of neon lights, the craziness of Hong Kong mafia and the incredible power of jazz to the perfectly choreographed action scenes and then you’ll have a film which will push your adrenaline glands to the limits. John Woo is a master when it comes to creating poetic and aesthetically wonderful action scenes, just look at the way characters are moving around, the way camera follows them, the way bullets rip through the air, the way they ruin everything and most importantly…
Following several pictures focusing on the gangster side of crime and it's glamorisation, Hong Kong action supremo John Woo wanted Hard Boiled to be a story about cops, the other side of the fence, and sought to create a Chinese character comparable to the moody, intense yet charismatic Dirty Harry-esque characters portrayed in Hollywood by such luminaries as Clint Eastwood & Steve McQueen. He achieves that neatly in Chow Yun-Fat's indomitable Inspector 'Tequila' Yuen, creating almost instantly in him an action star who deserves to sit on a par with any number of Bullitt's or John McClane's - the tough, intense yet louche centre of an, indeed, hard boiled action spectacular which doubles as a meditation on being a lawman at…
All right. So we have people blowing everything up in smithereens and never running out of bullets (Only when Woo wants it to). There are some totally unbelievable scenes in this film when physics ceases to exist and the bad people just come pouring in endlessly, only to get shot at and get lost in the debris. Oh and of course, no fatal wounds for the hero!
But this is an action movie where all the chaotic action sequences (Sometimes involving more than a hundred extras) are choreographed with delightful beauty and breath-taking meticulous details, where all the main characters show some emotional response to all the chaos going around them and don't just become a part of the action…
Occasional comments between myself and Richard Trondsen over the last couple of weeks or so about the standing of Hard Boiled when it comes to the greatest action films of all time prompted this rewatch - and I think I might have an answer for him.
Hard Boiled was the film that started me off as a nut for Hong Kong action films and far Eastern cinema as a whole back when I was at college and taking a couple of 'gap years' ("sitting around on my arse watching cricket" sounds less romantic) in the mid 90s. I was left wondering where this kind of film had been all my life - it was, and still is, absolutely mental.
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
I honestly thought of just writing “Fuck Yeah!” for my review.
“Hard Boiled” is one crazy, badass Hong Kong action flick. It’s violence as art and oozes style. Everyone is at the top of their game in this. A story of cops and gangsters and a ridiculous amount of bullets. This film never gets old and should be on every movie buffs watchlist.
What a badass film! I've wanted to see Hard Boiled for a long time and I was not disappointed. This is what an action film is all about! Sure its far fetched and unrealistic throughout, but it wouldn't be twice as fun. It has some of the coolest action scenes I've ever seen displayed on screen and I would recomend it to anyone that likes crazy action films. But its not all about the action. Although John Woo had a few problems when writing the script I'd have to say the final piece is perfect. The continuous shootout in the hospital shot is just mesmerising, testing the actors, cameramen and the special effects to the limit. Overall, I was astounded by the film and fell in love with this crazy creature. Its a must watch!
10% plot, 90% action scenes, 100% style. Not necessarily a criticism but out of 130 minutes it felt like two hours of solid gunfighting.
Best action movie of all time.
It's really something when the bullets are flying but early 90s John Woo has aged terribly. I’m suddenly interested in a rewatch of The Killer to see if its brass has tarnished as well.
If I had to use only one word to describe Hard Boiled, it would be ballistic.
Because at its core, that's what it is. It's completely insane and frenetic action sequences held together by a plot so filled with twists and turns it will literally make your head spin. It's exhilarating, fast-paced, energetic, and one hell of a time. The term ballistic doesn't only refer to the crazy and mile-a-minute pace of the film, but also to the literal ballistics in the film. There is zero CGI in this film, and while that would be the case seeing as it was made in 1992, it is refreshing to see some real explosions as opposed to the computer explosions.
"Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain." -Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Like Tarantino, John Woo has a unique style of action to his movies. I haven't seen much of them but this movie makes me want to.
John Woo knows action.
I don't know how Tony Leung's character survived that shotgun wound, but who cares when you're watching one of the best action movies ever made!
- Donnie Darko
- Morvern Callar
- Irma Vep
- Miami Blues
- Babe: Pig in the City
- Grand Illusion
- Seven Samurai
- The Lady Vanishes
- The 400 Blows
The entire Criterion collection organized by spine number.
I don't know why I did this.
Number I've Seen: 160/739
- Grand Illusion
- Seven Samurai
- The Lady Vanishes
- Crook's Tour
UPDATED: August 26, 2014
The Criterion Collection is a video distribution company that sells "important classic and contemporary films" in…