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…
An absolutely ballistic, no-holds-barred, over-the-top yet purely unadulterated action extravaganza to come out from Hong Kong during the the early 90s, Hard Boiled takes action in cinema to a whole new level with its heart-pounding & jaw-dropping sequences and cements John Woo's reputation as the most influential director when it comes to action filmmaking.
The story of Hard Boiled concerns two ace cops; one is a tough-as-nails detective in his department while the other one is working as an undercover agent & has risen sharply in the underworld over the years. The plot covers their initial friction with each other followed by a mutual partnership as the two eventually team up to take down & wipe out Hong Kong's most ruthless mobster & his…
If you read the script of Hard Boiled, you will probably be disappointed as it might sound like a complete action turd, but seeing John Woo giving life to his own screenplay is like a religious experience, it's as if Mr. God had created him specifically to create his own action movies.
This is a film that shows how good John Woo was in his own golden age - before he decided to create films only to increase his bank account -, when he was able to turn average melodramatic stories into purely 'artistic works', when his mediocre fatalist storylines did not interfere with the shootings, when the stylized violence was always at the service of the story itself.
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…
From the opening scene of the rain covered, neon lit streets of the city, superimposed over Chow Yun-Fat sweating, drinking a slammer and playing clarinet in a dark jazz club, we can see that this film matches its title perfectly. This is a Hard-Boiled police story in the grand tradition of Harry Callaghan, Popeye Doyle and Frank Bullitt. Everything is black and white, the hero does what needs to be done to save the day and the brass at City Hall don't like it they can swivel. In fact Chow Yun-Fat's character, Tequila Yuen, seems to contain every cop cliché there is: matchstick chewing renegade cop, putting himself in the mind of the killer, eating around dead bodies. That's okay…
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…
An excuse for a story along for a ride with what has to rank among some of the most technically brilliant action set pieces—I mean, the movie itself is 75% set pieces. Indeed, there are times the camera's movement flits between paranoia and precision, and it is simply a marvel.
As I say, the story and the themes its dragging don't, like a lot of the people in this movie, don't make it out alive, but that doesn't really seem to be the point of a John Woo movie. Hard Boiled wants to be "cool", and it is—along with insane and brilliant, and is probably the best John Woo movie I have yet seen.
Makes a fascinating pair with The Killer: that film is more elegant, while this one embraces chaos; that film features a much more stoic performance from Chow Yun-Fat than the charismatic one here; and yet, they both come bubbling to life not only when the bullets fly, but when a homosocial bond of mutual respect and sympathy develops.
I think the titles of both films could even be reversed. The Killer is a much harder and colder character than the affable Tequila is here. Conversely, the tragedy of Tequila's character is that he can't get away from killing long enough to live his life. Nor can Alan, another character who could be described as "the killer" and who imbues the…
Best action movie of all time.
Perhaps the greatest action film I've ever seen. Hard Boiled live up to all its hype! I am convinced that this is John Woo's magnum opus. Sure it doesn't have the "artistic" feel of The Killer and I haven't seen his other highly acclaimed films (such as A Better Tomorrow). Regardless of whether you feel I am right or wrong in saying these things, you cannot deny the thrill that comes with watching Chow Yun-Fat shoot his way through each expertly crafted set piece. The story, while not perfect, is pretty solid considering most action movies tend not to have one at all. The major thing with this one though of course is the hospital shoot out. The 30 plus…
"They've only got .38!"
There aren't that many directors who can create so technically perfect action movies like John Woo.
"Hard Boiled" in this aspect is a step forward in terms of choreography and crazy shooting compared to earlier "The Killer". Though it has less serious plot than "The Killer" and is a bit slow in the first half, even when it starts with an amazing jazzy opening shootout, it still features badass Chun Yun-Fat. So badass that he actually smokes cigarettes while chewing toothpick (hello Refn!). Story is very campy in a good way with lots of typical for Woo black humor like a baby pissing on fire.
Though the greatest delight of it is action. So many long…
This movie is better than I remembered. To be specific, it's more violent and has a much better screenplay. I seem to remember the story being a hodgepodge of nothing, but it's actually this weirdly Michael Mann -esque story of honor and dying for your beliefs way before Mann was making movies like that (OK, well, like, two years before, still). Naturally it's also accompanied by outdated computer jokes and still very relevant pee jokes because it's still Hongkong before it went to shit. I don't need to say much about John Woo making good action movies, but the level of violence here is parallel to something like Tarantino's Django Unchained in terms of how much blood fly from everything that's been shot. Woo however applies similar excess to everything in his film, making it a very balanced whole.
Hard-Boiled is Die Hard's only real competitor as far as 80's action flicks go. When characterization is less interesting and less important as the action (there are other great action flicks but they are in a different weight class). There is not much that be said for Hard-Boiled, it is good fun (for all the over-the-top violence what sets it apart from the violence of the aforementioned Straw Dogs is the level of drama that bookends Dogs with the possibility that it can actually happen).
Hard Boiled is the most balls-to-the-wall action spectacle ever committed to film. From the opening tea house shootout to the explosive finale in the hospital, the guns almost never stop firing. Not only is this my favorite action movie, it's probably one if the greatest action movies ever made.
john woo flow
Combined the average ratings (Critic's & Users) from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and Letterboxd, and then weighted and tweaked the results…
The entire Criterion collection organized by spine number.
I don't know why I did this.
Number I've Seen: 196/776 (25%)