Tuesday, September 01, 2009
From the Vault: Hard-Boiled
Forget Jean-Claude Van Damme. If you want to see a movie that exemplifies how John Woo earned his reputation as an ace action director, see Hard-Boiled, an extremely violent but utterly fun example of his Hong Kong work. Even an experienced connoisseur of American action films should be blown away by the mind-numbing set pieces that Woo cooks up in Hard-Boiled. He's as much choreographer as director.
Just when you think he's reached a pinnacle of wow-inducing gunplay and fighting, he produces another sequence that tops what came before. By the end, when the protagonists search one corridor after another for each other, it's become less a film than a live-action video game.
The plot, really just a skeletal excuse for the action, concerns rival gun runners in Hong Kong, a duplicitous gangster caught between the two groups and the cop who wants to stop them all.
Chow Yun-Fat stars as Tequila, the crusading law officer who makes Dirty Harry look like a model of restraint in comparison. He doesn't leave the precinct without grabbing a healthy supply of weapons first.
The other main character is Tony, the gangster with divided loyalties played by Tony Leung (full name Tony Leung Chiu Wai to avoid confusion with Tony Leung Ka Fai who starred in the recent film The Lover).
In addition to the absurdly entertaining violence, Hard-Boiled provides an added comic kick by putting Hong Kong spins on American genre cliches.
A word of warning: Hard-Boiled is not for the squeamish. The violence and blood reaches such a high level that you probably would need someone schooled in higher mathematics to calculate the film's body count.
However, if you can enjoy it on its comic book level, Hard-Boiled takes the viewer on an incredibly fun thrill ride.