Hard-Boiled (1992) Movie Review

“Hard-Boiled” has the distinction of being action auteur John Woo’s last Hong Kong picture, and so far, his last picture with his familiar star (and offscreen friend) Chow Yun-Fat. I don’t think it would be too farfetched to say that the duo have turned what was once a joke in international cinema (re: Hong Kong films) into something to be reckon with and respected. Woo and Fat’s action movies are international blockbusters, major hits everywhere except in the States, where their earlier films like “The Killer” and “A Better Tomorrow” remain cult favorites only.

“Hard-Boiled” is not really a movie, but rather John Woo giving a thumbs up to Hong Kong and everything Hong Kong has done for his career. After “Hard-Boiled,” Woo would migrate to America as a star director, doing mediocre action movies with mediocre stars like Jean Claude Van Damme before graduating to mediocre action movies with big stars like Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible 2.”

In “Hard-Boiled,” Woo favorite Yun-Fat plays a character name “Tequila” (at least in the American version) who is something of a loose cannon. (Didn’t see that coming, did ya?) Anyhoo… Tequila, following the tried and true formula of all cop movies everywhere, has just seen a gangster working for a notorious gunrunner whack his partner during a shootout. Needless to say, before you can spit out, “Clich’ storyline ahead!” Tequila is going after the gunrunner and he isn’t going to stop until one of them is dead, or at least until a lot of innocent bystanders are slaughtered and a whole hospital is blown to smithereens — both of which happens.

One doesn’t watch a movie like “Hard-Boiled” as much as one experiences it. The movie is breathtaking in its gunplay. Woo once again employs what has become known as “gun-fu” (a play on words in respect to “wire-fu,” the Hong Kong tradition of using wires to make their characters literally fly in martial arts films).

In fact, Act 3 is one big gunfight, where our two heroes Tequila and undercover cop Alan (who is obviously no longer undercover) marches through numerous floors and hallways to get to the psychotic gunrunner holed up in the hospital’s basement/morgue, which incidentally is also the bad guy’s secret armory. You see, the bad guy stores his guns at the hospital.

Anyhoo, the gunfight is intense, and I mean intense. Windows are shattered, at least 30 bad guys are filled with holes, at least 50 hospital patients are slaughtered, a number of SWAT cops shot dead, and a room full of infant babies endangered by: gunfire, explosions, fire, and, yes, the threat of falling from 3 stories up. (I kid you not on that last one.)

“Hard-Boiled” is Woo’s swan song to his Hong Kong roots, and it’s a doozy. The plot of “Hard-Boiled” is really incidental, since there is hardly anything you couldn’t have guessed would happen if you’ve seen at least two cop movies in your life.

John Woo (director) / John Woo, Barry Wong (screenplay)
CAST: Yun-Fat Chow …. Yuen (Tequila)
Tony Leung Chiu Wai …. Tony (Alan)
Teresa Mo …. Teresa Chang

Buy Hard-Boiled on DVD