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.
This 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.