“Give a man a gun and he thinks he’s Superman. Give him two and he thinks he’s God.”
I’m been an easy watcher of films from Hong Kong specially of Jackie Chan’s flicks and there used to be an occasional remarks about the films from this part of the World and to be explicit, HK enjoys a long film history, almost as long as movies themselves dating back to visit by a camera crew from the Lumiere studio in 1896. For decades, Hong Kong is the third largest motion picture industry in the world after Indian cinema and Hollywood and the second largest exporter.
Despite an industry crisis in the mid’90s, during its return to Chinese sovereignty in July 1997, HK film has retained much of its distinctive identity and continues to play a prominent part on the world cinema stage. In the West, HK’s vigorous pop cinema, especially Hong Kong action cinema has long had a strong cult following, which is now arguably a part of the cultural mainstream, widely available and imitated.
Hard-Boiled is the effort of the director John Woo, known for his stylist approach, and is similarly intense at examining the moral and social hierarchies of the patriarchal crime worlds. The standing of this movie is very unusual, and rendered as greatest action genre of all time. It’s only after this movie, Hollywood came knocking John Woo, popularly known for Face/off, Windtalkers, The Killers, Once a thief, MI-II, and so on. Empire online placed this film at number 70 in their list of “The 100 Best Films of World Cinema”
Hard-Boiled is Woo’s story for the screenplay by Barry Wong. The movie has his favorite Chow Yun-Fat as Tequila, a rebellious undercover cop. The movie is spectacular for its gunplay and uses martial art techniques to new high pushing boundaries of cinema that exploits the ultraviolent action. The plot is about the cop Tequila, gritty about exposing HK’s ruthless gangs of illegal arms traders, determined to take improbable risks and go against the commands of his Superintendent boss (Philip Chan) to do so. Most part of the movie Tequila remains serious and only time the audience sees him avid, playing a clarinet in a jazz nightclub.
In the intervening time, his boss decides for the undercover operations bringing another cop named Tony (Tony Leung). This grouping creates inter-department rivalry between Tony and Tequila. Undeniably, both are troubled loners- Tony lives a double life, induces heinous acts, and also mourns every life he snuffs out. Tequila, on the other hand, is straightforward and piqued with the others attitude. They eventually establish a personal connection among themselves to gather for a common cause as they put aside their differences and join forces before Johnny gangster massacres a hospital full of innocent patients.
Director Woo epitomes the truth as the ultimate justice, underlining the shades in the characters. The protagonists often are unwittingly placed in uncomfortable situations with no deception of escape, before they spring back in frantic and more of situations unwind to another making it unpredictable. The action sequences are well exploited and the audience find cadenced and the intrinsic humor are subtle and distinguishes Hard Boiled from other Woo films is the synergy between movement and morality, that’s part of the film’s appeal and symbolic, typical for the films from the east.
The film’s dazed raid through the streets of HK chords the rush with the undercover agents; hectic cops and a gangster stimulate the act are incredibly presented, relating all the barely believable features that’s present in modern day action flicks. There is further worth observing on, the outdoor shots are passive and you see little sunlight in the movie. The exceptional opening tea-house shoot-out is one of the most stimulating openings to any film I’ve ever seen. Likewise, another extensive scene between the two rival gangs before Chow Yun-Fat interrupts himself into the happening of the events is one of the best scenes of its kind. This is again a fiercely choreographed, the double-handed gunplay, men holding guns to each other’s heads, and all over-the-top balletic action that has probably never been equaled onscreen.
The performance of Chow Yun-Fat in his natural self, but Tony Leung (the other undercover cop) adds weight to a genre that is, in its usual form, effortless and without consequence. The best of the attention carries forward for the last quarter of the film that’s shot entirely in the hospital campus and the long climax is well thought. The immense body count during the breathless fights is assuredly unforgettable in that non-stop volley of shoot-outs, which is awfully brutal. Woo’s movies typically convey a certain joy for film buffs. Hard Boiled is darker, more radical and agree that the violence is a little less graceful and blatant. The characters’ lives are grey and hard to see where they go from time to time and they may be able to solve their problems, or to escape from them, but it’s questionable whether they will ever know peace.
Also Hard-Boiled was Woo’s farewell to the city of HK. Close to real, the film makes you fuse with the harder edge. Gratis, that the morality seizes bloodshed that you do not find in any average Hollywood or other action films. Many film-buffs have seen more Hong Kong action films and grieved that they simply aren’t as worthy as Hard-Boiled. That’s indeed true
Story & Directed by John Woo
Produced by Terence Chang & Linda Kuk
Written by Barry Wong & Gorden Chan
Cast: Chow Yun-fat & Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Music by Michael Gibbs
Cinematography: Wang Wing-Heng
Edited by John Woo; Jack Ah; David Wu & Kai Kit-Wai
Production Company: Golden Princess Film Production & Milestone Pictures
Distributed by Golden Princess Film Production (Hong Kong)
Release dates: 16 April 1992 (Hong Kong)
Run time of 128 minutes
Country: Hong Kong