Hard Boiled is a Hong Kong action movie that to be honest, if I’d seen it in the shop, I probably would’ve passed over it. However, both my teacher (I tend to trust his tastes) and my friend recommended it to me, so when I saw the budget version I had to pick it up. It was only a pound, after all. Although I was aware of John Woo as a name in the directing world, and I was aware of the references to him and this movie in Hot Fuzz, somehow I missed watching the movie itself before this.
Wow. I was not prepared for it at all.
There is one shot that comes in early that tells you exactly what kind of movie this is. It’s also when you get an idea of how impossible some of this stuff must’ve been to think of, never mind shoot. The main shot that will have you screaming “WHAT.” at the screen is a shot of Chow Yun Fat (who, incidentally, has gotten a more oval head with age) sliding down a bannister while firing two guns at the same time in the first five minutes.
The movie is about a typical cowboy cop known as Tequila (I’m not sure why). His friend dies in a raid on a teahouse (where the aforementioned bannister-sliding takes place) so he decides to take his revenge on Johnny Wong, the crime boss. Who for some reason (apparently it was due to a subplot that got abandoned) has his base in a hospital, leading to the famous hospital shoot-out.
On the opposing side is an undercover cop named Tony (I think) who is obviously conflicted about what he does, and the fact that people who should be his colleagues want to kill him. There’s nice banter between the main characters as they get together, leading to a Buddy Love scenario (the friendship type, not the ‘Nutty Professor’ type).
The story doesn’t really matter that much though. You come for the standard story, and stay for the explosions and gunplay (or you come for the explosions and gunplay and stay for those elements; in that case I applaud you for knowing where your priorities lie), which at times looks like smoothly choreographed ballet – perhaps an inspiration for the “Gun Kata” of Equilibrium? The sequence leading up to the ending, where the place explodes, is nothing short of masterful.
Something that adds a hilarious layer to the film is the really obvious dub from Mandarin Chinese to English. Actors’ mouth’s flap long after they’re finished talking and I’m pretty sure the villain has a British accent at some point. My teacher told me not to watch the dubbed version (apparently there’s a subtitled version out there) but arguably the poor dubbing quality makes it better. It’s about as funny as my girlfriend’s copy of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which for some reason couldn’t decide whether the characters were saying Peking or Beijing. (The subtitles said one thing while the characters said another.)
Much like Die Hard, this is definitely a guy movie; one to watch with your mates and occasionally riff on. This is a movie that makes aspirations at delivering life messages and being deep, but they knew exactly what the casual viewer wanted. And by God the filmmakers gave it to them with both barrels. This comes absolutely recommended; two guns up.