Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hard Boiled

As I'm about to begin my last year of studies in history, I'm astonished that many people never saw at least one film John Woo directed before heading to Hollywood. Like any other films he directed (except A Better Tomorrow 2) back in his heydays in Hong Kong, Hard Boiled is definitely one of those films that put Hollywood to shame given that it only had a budget of $4 million. Although the last collaboration between Chow Yun-Fat and John Woo didn't give a masterpiece like The Killer, it still remains entertaining and decent.

Sgt. Tequila Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat), a police officer of Hong Kong, has been on a case of gun smuggling for a while. While the Hong Kong police ruins a transaction between smugglers at a teahouse, Tequila loses his partner. In order to bring Johnny Wong (Anthony Wong), a ruthless gun smuggler, and to get revenge, Tequila teams up with Tony (Tony Leung), an undercover cop.

Obviously, if you're watching John Woo's last film made in Hong Kong, don't expect to see a masterpiece. At best, Hard Boiled is a film in which Woo decided to have fun as much as director Zhang Yimou did with House of Flying Daggers. With that said, it's surprising that Woo manages to pull off a good film with a minimal effort, because he described the film as being "70% action and 30% script".

As a matter of fact, don't expect to see any depth or ambiguousness just like in The Killer. Obviously, while it deals with the usual theme of honour and brotherhood, Hard Boiled - just by looking at its script - looks like your usual good Hollywood action flick. This means that it sticks to the mainstream standard of what's an acceptable gunfight film solely made for entertainment. Nevertheless, Hard Boiled stands out from all of its competitors, because we see why John Woo is the reference for making action films. For instance, in the shoot out in the hospital (at the end), when Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung gets in the elevator (after they cleared one floor), the crew was just given 20 seconds to make the set look like a different floor.

All in all, this is a way of saying that John Woo masters gunfight movies the same way Sergio Leone masters the genre of Western.

Finally, Hard Boiled may not be the best film from John Woo. However, while its script is okay, the film is definitely the benchmark for gunfight films. In fact, Hard Boiled has the most intense and well-shot gunfight scenes I've seen so far. If you're a fan of John Woo, you'd certainly like it as long as you accept that the film tries to be extremely entertaining and okay.

Rating: 3.5/5

Origin:Hong Kong (1992)
Length:126 minutes
Genre:Action drama
Screenplay:Barry Wong
Director:John Woo
Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung, Teresa Mo, Philip Chan, Philip Kwok and Anthony Wong

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