I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Hard Boiled

Well god damn here’s an action picture like I’ve NEVER seen. This is a must see for ANY action fan and I am not fucking joking. I mean you don’t have to see Payback, you don’t have to see Die Hard with a Vengeance or any of these other movies I talk about but in god and mary’s sweet name of christ jesus, you OWE it to yourself and to the lord to see this chinese picture Hard Boiled.

I mean don’t get me wrong I like the van dammes and what not but this is on a whole other plane flying way up in the sky. It will forever change what you expect from an action picture in my opinion although I only saw it this afternoon so what the hell do I know. But it is to shootout movies what Godfather is to mob movies or Jaws is to shark movies. Don’t take this the wrong way but it is such a leap ahead it is like die hard times ten. It is WAY, and I mean WAY more violent than anything you will see in the US of A but at the same time the characters and story plot are far more developed.

Hard BoiledThis has the most balls to the walls action scenes you’ve ever seen in your god damn life. Trust me, I know, even if the Die Hards are your idea of a great action movie your gonna shit yourself. (I mean I’m not saying I shitted myself I’m just saying, this one knocked me out you know, that’s all, it was impressive.)

I am talking about hundreds of gun shots, walls and windows splitting apart, people dying left and right, blood spraying on windows, things catching on fire, people rolling across rooms on gurneys blowing motherfuckers away. There is a shootout in a hospital that lasts more than 20 minutes and never gets dull. There is a scene where two arms dealer gangs have a huge battle in a warehouse, crashing cars and motorcycles into each other, firing uzis, throwing grenades. Only after the battle seems to be over does the hero, a cop named Tequila swing in on a rope and attempt to take on all of the survivors singlehandedly. And do a damn good job I might add.

This is one of many classic shootouts, and Tequila is the type of dude who gets knocked over onto a banister and decides to slide down it, firing all the way down.

But still, it’s the characters and the storyline that you really care about. This is partly cause the gang of filmatists behind this one led by director John Woo don’t look at this like your typical good vs. evil, cops and robbers type scenario. The gangs have a good side and the cops have a bad side. From the beginning Woo cuts between Tequila and a gang assassin Tony Leung walking in the same place and manner, drawing a parallel between these two. (The assassin turns out to be an undercover pig but he feels a family type bond with the gangs he pretends to be a part of.)

Leung’s first boss Mr. Hui is Hong Kong’s king of weapons smuggling, but he seems like your friendly grampa. And he never even shows a dark side, he lets Tony kill him when he betrays him. You gotta feel for this guy and for Leung having to kill him.

The gang boss Johnny has a one-eyed henchman named Mad Dog and this guy is a baaaaaaaaad motherfucker. He drives into the warehouse and crashes his motorcycle, sliding across the pavement and STILL SHOOTING. He spins away from the motorcycle and never loses his balance. Stays on his feet and doesn’t skip a beat before killing more motherfuckers.

I mean we see this guy shooting people, throwing a grenade into an office, slitting the throat of an invalid, leaning into a flaming car to light his smoke. And yet this is the guy who turns his gun on Johnny for killing patients in the hospital, says you have to draw the line somewhere. You see what I mean this is a big action movie but the characters aren’t all good or all bad, they are a little more complicated.

I mean the pigs aren’t exactly the pope either. if you pay attention in the opening teahouse shootout, the guy that turns out to be an undercover cop actually uses innocent bystanders as a human shield! WHich is how you can tell he’s a cop. Typical but you don’t usually see that in movies.

There is also a real freaky ass type of technique where when Tequila is in trouble he is able to go to the jazz bar and get advice from director John Woo himself. John just gives him some type of yoda advice and Tequila says “thanks Mr. Woo.” I guess it’s kind of like how Bugs Bunny can reach up and grab the animators paintbrush. I don’t know what all that’s about it kind of blows your mind but oh well man I like it.

Anyway Tequila is a classic Badass and illustrates an important point about Badass Cinema. And that is that juxtaposition is an important element of any Badass. Most of the best Badasses in Cinema have a cute hobby or a sensitive side which, through contrast, only serves to accentuitate the Badass qualities. For Tequila, it’s playing clarinet in a jazz club, because he always dreamed of being a musician. Clint Eastwood used the same shtick in In the Line of Fire although he chose piano. For Tony Leung, it’s origami – he makes a paper crane every time he kills a motherfucker. For me, it’s the Writing to document my journey.

The juxtaposition can be visual too though, like a 300 pound mexican with tattoos and scars, holding a balloon. That would be a good one. For Tequila, he runs through a hospital with a big gun in one hand and a baby in the other. He even sings to the little crumb crusher and wipes the blood off his face. There is a legitimate reason in the plot for why he’s carrying the baby but it’s still a cool thing to bring along during a bloodbath in my opinion.

Chow Yun Fat plays Tequila and he is an actor with 1) chops 2) charisma and 3) attitude. He can charm a gal with his smile or blow a mans head off it doesn’t matter. He is the chinese Bruce Campbell or Willis, a man whose talents are too big for this world.

Now I know what you expect me to say next. “Mark my words, this Chow Yun Fat is gonna be huge. The nerds on the internet will worship this dude like a god. We must bring him to our shores immediately for his first American pictures.” The type of shit I said when I thought I discovered Bruce Campbell. Well look pal I’m not a retard I did my research this time. Yun Fat has already done three movies in the American language thank you very much.

But let’s face it that’s not good enough. I don’t mean to get patriotic here because really I could give a rats ass about the red white and what not but jesus man, we can REALLY do better than this replacement killers bullshit as far as I’m concerned. Without Yun Fat that movie would be NOTHING. In Hard Boiled he is one of many top notch elements but in these American ones he’s Atlas holding the whole god damned movie on his shoulders. And I don’t even wanna TALK about this Anna and the King and I garbage, I haven’t seen it so I’m probaly totally wrong, but let’s get real here.

What is America’s #1 export? That’s right it’s movies. If we want to make the best movies in the world we should be on our knees BEGGING this man to make movies with us and if we can’t offer anything as good as the Hong Kong then Hong Kong has won him fair and square. And their gonna keep him. Right now he is doing a film in cantonese with Michelle Yo from the James Bonds. Not only that but it is a historical flying karate type picture from acclaimed director ang lee AND it has a great title, Hidden Dragon and Crouching Tiger or something along those lines. Do you know what that means? DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT FUCKING MEANS?

Don’t play dumb jackass you fucking KNOW Crouching Tiger Hiding Dragon is gonna be better than his american movies and we’re never gonna see the dude on our soil again. Great job hollywood way to go guys.

Anyway long story short Hard Boiled #1 action picture of the ’90s thanks

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2002 at 2:31 pm and is filed under Action, Crime, Drama, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

40 Responses to “Hard Boiled”

  1. I am not exactly flooding with bucks right now so thanks for the tip.

  2. Vern, was 2002 the first time you saw Hard Boiled?

    I just saw this in 35mm on the big screen at midnight like all late 80s / early 90s Hong Kong movies should be seen. It was amazing. Seeing it on the big screen was a revelation to me in the sense that I never realized how awesome the acting is. Just one of the best action movies that ever lived.

  3. It is one of my hopes to see an early-90s HK movie in 35MM. New York has a Jackie Chan festival every now and then and they have access to just about all his classics in 35MM. I was VERY tempted to spend money I shouldn’t be spending to go up there and attend. To make all lose respect for me, if I could only see one of the movies they played in 35, as much as I love POLICE STORY (it is seriously one of my favorite movies ever) I would probably have chosen CITY HUNTER. I make no apologizes.

  4. I once saw Once a Thief in 35mm at a midnight screening. I still remember the whole crowd confused at the subtitle “I have so many aces I think I have aids” i still don’t get it.

  5. Bullet in the Head on the big screen blew my mind. The college cinema showed it.

  6. I recently showed my friend Bullet to the Head. Afterwards he looked at me and said “why would you do this to me?” It’s seriously one of the bleakest, most depressing movies in history.

  7. Do you know how much I hate you north Americans for your theatrical screenings of classic movies? There is not one day without any of you people bragging how super cool movie X is gonna be screened in super cool movie theatre Y. I can’t remember ever hearing of our big city movie theatres doing something like that. Even when I was in Toronto last year, I had the chance to see some cool classics (and…Mortal Kombat…) on the big screen! (It didn’t happen because of flight problems.)

    The point is: Embrace your classic-movie-screening culture as long as you have it. Others don’t have it as good as you.

  8. BULLET IN THE HEAD is so good though, even more so if you watch it with the original ending.

    I’m glad that it’s reputation has bounced back from mostly ignored because it didn’t star Chow Yun Fat, he was supposed to be in it but had to drop out to do A BETTER TOMORROW III (which BULLET was originally going to be before John Woo and Tsui Hark had a falling out and thus they both made competing TOMORROW prequel/Vietnam films).

    Also saying BULLET was your favorite Woo-joint was good way to show everyone what a pretentious fuck you were. The moment that interview came out with Woo saying that BULLET was his favorite movie that he made every asshole cine-elite HK fan starting saying BULLET was their favorite too (it wasn’t, in my experience THE KILLER or HARD BOILED was everyone’s favorite).

  9. KaeptnKrautsalat

    July 19th, 2017 at 7:57 am

    @CJ
    Classic films get theatrical screenings in Germany quite often, including HK action films. THE KILLER was screened in Hamburg earlier this year.

  10. Ugh, I’m stuck in the wrong parts of the world.

  11. Move to America CJ.

  12. Thanks to the advent of digital we get a lot more classic and ‘specialty’ showings down here than we used to but they are rarely 35MM though (which is fine). We are getting DUNKIRK in 70MM though so that’s cool (We previously were one of the ones to get the 70MM Roadshow Version of HATEFUL EIGHT as well) and proof we’re not that bad off down here anymore.

    Still want to see LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and 2001 in 70MM since I’ve heard nothing but songs and legends of how amazing those are in 70MM.

  13. I wanna move to Toronto for several reasons, but currently I couldn’t even move to the apartment next door.

    Y’know what? One of my near-ish cinemas actually screened LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm last year! I just didn’t have time. Anyway, I wish they would screen more stuff like that here.

  14. Geoffrey, the Music Box in Chicago does a 70mm movie fest every year and 2001 was one of them this year. Fun fact, Hard Boiled was shown on the special screen used for 70mm fest so I saw Chow Yun Fat slide down a banister shooting two guns even larger than normal.

  15. The Music Box shows 2001 as part of their 70mm fest EVERY year. In fact this year they spent a ton of cash to commission a brand new 70mm print thats as close to the original as you can get.

    I also saw Hard Boiled in 35mm there this weekend and it was seriously mindblowing.

  16. I may need to keep an eye on that. Getting to Chicago is way more convenient and easy for me than New York. If I bothered to talk to that side of the family I would even have a place to stay rent free. I do not so I would still have to rent out so mentioning that is a moot point. Aw who am I kidding I don’t live *that* far from the CHAIN SAW house and I keep making excuses on why I shouldn’t make the drive. But I’ll keep The Music Box’s screenings in mind. I’ve heard that they are really great.

    That HARD BOILED screening makes me envious. And envy is a sin.

  17. That goes to you too Darth!

  18. Darth, did you go Friday or Saturday? They showed trailers and one of them was a Bill Cosby trailer and before it could really start the film strip broke. It was real funny.

  19. I went Saturday night after Pitchfork.
    A hit of acid and George Clinton and Tribe Called Quest (RIP Phife) and Survive…who were great (they did songs for The Guest and Stranger Things, kinda reminded me of Goblin) and then Hard Boiled on the big screen! What a day.

    They played 3, count em, 3, Bill Cosby trailers. It was nuts. They also played the Face/Off trailer!

  20. Well damn, went to their website. They have a couple of interesting titles in 70MM. Plus a chance to see HARD BOILED in theaters one of these days. I may have to budget and plan that trek someday soon.

  21. Bullet was my favorite non face swapping Woo joint although I think a revisit of The Killer might change that.

  22. I need to rewatch FACE/OFF. I was already familiar with Woo before it came out and was disappointed he re-used so many of his set pieces in that one. I was going through my snob-phase if you can’t tell. So far HARD TARGET is my favorite English Woo, my fav overall is between A BETTER TOMORROW and THE KILLER.

  23. HARD BOILED was my cherry popper. Vividly remembered renting it because I came from watching that Wesley Snipes/Dennis Hopper joint BOILING POINT at the local RKO and being really disappointed. Maybe I was too young to appreciate it at the time but I was an extremely precocious and street smart kid so I dunno don’t think it was that. So it was whatever year that movie came out (’93?)

    I go to the video store afterwards and a fellow patron from the neighborhood tells me “you want a movie with the word BOIL in it that delivers? take this!” and hands me the HARD BOILED video cover. That movie completely floored me so then I rented THE KILLER and I officially had a favorite new director.

    When I saw the trailer for the new Van Damme dropping that summer and it said “From John Woo” I almost cried. Every other kid wants to watch METEOR MAN or whatever the fuck but I HAD to see HARD TARGET. Unfortunately I had to spend that summer in the DR so I missed it at the cinema. But I rented it and dubbed it as soon as it hit home video.

    I also did watch BROKEN ARROW and FACE/OFF at the cinema. Funny thing when I first went to BA I ended up watching FROM DUSK TILL DAWN instead cause the BROKEN ARROW print at the RKO was fucked.

    Ended up enjoying a nice surprise (I was completely unaware about the genre shift in DUSK and it really made me grin like an idiot when Salma went all nosferatu). Then I made sure to get a rain check cause I still had to watch that new John Woo shit and I ended up watching BA a couple of days later.

    It’s crazy how I can still recall that like it was yesterday. Especially in light of Fred’s memory talks in other threads recently. Just goes to show you those of us who grew up when the action movie was still king were really blessed and we appreciated that so much.

    That era was pure magic and I’m sorry but I doubt these kids growing up on superhero movies feel the same kind of exhiliration. I almost feel sorry for them but at least they still have THE FAST & THE FURIOUS. This ironically coming from the resident comic book nerd who has hundreds upon hundreds of superhero comics from the 80s to present at his disposal.

  24. Actually I did get to watch one movie at the cinema that summer when I think back. It was JURASSIC PARK which I only got to see cause it was an early summer release. I used to leave the states in July every summer back then and come back in September in time for school. Unfortunately for me HARD TARGET was a late summer release. To this day I still want to see that on a big screen.

  25. Thanks for the shout out, Broddie. Moviegoing memories are extremely vivid to me. I started saving my ticket stubs in 1992 and now I look through them like old photo albums. For the gaps when I worked at a movie theater and got in free, I use the Box Office Mojo yearly release calendar.

  26. Another funny thing about movie memories is that I have about one or two central memories relating to each one. It could be remembering a particular scene on the screen or something a friend said or in a few cases the parking situation on a busy rainy night.

    I try to remember the entire experience from leaving the house to returning home but I find my memory always focused on one or two anchors. I suppose my desire amounts to full time travel which is impossible. I’m lucky I retain a moment from each experience.

  27. Broddie, I saw Cliffhanger with my dad and they did a Hard Target trailer and they said “from internationally acclaimed action director John Woo” I marked out so hard. I have no idea how i missed it in the theaters.

  28. Speaking of trailers and CLIFFHANGER. You guys remember how fresh and game changing the trailer for that one seemed back then?

    I don’t know how that trailer holds up in light of 25 years of thousands upon thousands of imitators. I do know that that classical track thumping in pristine (for it’s time) surround sound and all that crazy Renny Harlin Sly on a mountain imagery was quite the spectacle.

  29. Venice Film Review: ‘Manhunt’

    A breezy, silly, borderline self-parodic action thriller full of guns, doves and slow-mo from Hong Kong genre master John Woo.

    Review for Manhunt. I don’t know, sounds pretty awesome to me but I bet you this guy is a descendent of the guy who called The Killer an action comedy back in the day.

    Or it actually sucks. Either way I’m still pumped.

  30. Be kind of a dick-move for me to judge the guy without having seen the movie yet but in my experience sometimes what these guys mean by calling something, especially an action movie, “self-parodic” what they mean is it’s really earnest and not ashamed to be stylistic and awesome. Example: The movie probably uses lots of slow-motion and doves and operatic choreography, thus the reviewer thinks the movie/Woo should have been at least somewhat ashamed or at least self-referencial with their uses instead of earnest.

    Again I haven’t seen the movie obviously so maybe Woo does tip his hand too much. I remember some said that about MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II and thought the uses of his stylistic-fetishes helped enhance that already ridiculous movie. Almost as if cinema-master John Woo knew what he was doing!

  31. Exactly, guys.

    And so be prepared for more mainstream reviews like the Variety one above.

  32. This review is better.

    “Thankfully, Woo directs the shit out of the messy screenplay to ensure that barely a minute goes by without something absolutely insane and hyper-stylized happening. That’s a good thing.”

    Apparently it combines heroic bloodshed, fugitive and Universal Soldier (!) plot points. I’m so stoked.

    http://collider.com/manhunt-review-john-woo/#tiff

  33. Hope it gets a decently-sized theatrical release here and if so I’m able to see it that way. I would have loved to see even the cut-down International Version of RED CLIFF that way.

  34. Y’see, that review is more like it. I’m super stoked.

    (Wuniversal Solider?)

  35. I am hoping with it making the festival rounds that it plays the Chicago cinepocolypse festival which I would definitely buy the 150 dollar pass to make sure I saw that and Jailbreak. And others.

  36. Now this review is straight up saying they think Woo meant if as a parody of his movies. This is so confusing.

    John Woo’s Manhunt is a joyous parody of his action classics

    But like so many parodies, it runs into problems when it repeats the same gag too often.

  37. Yeah, this is what I was talking about.

    Peeps just can’t handle the sincerity, so it becomes:

    Woo returning to motifs that he loves and are an essential element of his storytelling = self-parody.

  38. A lot of my favourite movies, especially action movies, could probably be described as “self-parodies”, so this only makes me more excited.

    I rewatched HARD BOILED just recently, and it’s amazing how singularly impressive it still is. You’d think in the last few decades somebody would have at least attempted to top the HARD BOILED hospital gunfight by now, but it’s as if every action director saw the movie and figured that it hit the maximum possible limit for awesomely spectacular gunfights, so why even try? Although if there’s any decent attempts I want to hear about them.

  39. Honesty, I think we will get more John Wick style gunfights before we ever get somebody attempt to do a John Woo gunfight.

    That’s why I liked London has Fallen as I enjoyed all the different gun battles.

  40. I will take all the John Wick style gunfights I can get, but they aren’t the same thing. I think they’re less versatile too. I love JOHN WICK 2 like John Wick loves dogs, but by the end of the film I was getting a little burned out on the whole “judo-throw, headshot, judo-throw, headshot” rhythm of the gunfights.

    I enjoyed LONDON HAS FALLEN for how shameless and dumb and reactionary it was (would probably be less enjoyable these days), but I can’t recall a single interesting action scene or cool action moment except maybe where he shoots that motorcycle guy in the face. There’s even a one-take gunfight that I’m sure was very technically impressive and difficult to film, but it failed to get my blood pumping at all.

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