Hard Boiled Made in: Hong Kong Language: Cantonese Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Year: 1992
Before making such dreck as Broken Arrow and Mission Impossible 2 here in the U.S., John Woo masterminded some of the most mind-blowing foreign action thrillers in his native Hong Kong.
In a region known for prolific martial arts movies, I suppose filmmakers over there finally got it in their heads to use guns instead of Kung Fu against on-screen villains.
Synopsis: Hard Boiled is a cop adventure about Tequila Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat), a hard-drinking tough guy police inspector. An incessant wise-ass and rule breaker, he teams up with a deep cover agent (Tony Leung) to take down the gun smuggling gangsters who killed Tequila's partner/best buddy.
The Good: Great action. Great story development. Great cast/acting. Within the first five minutes there's a shootout that rivals the climax of most Hollywood action movies. The later action sequences escalate in complexity and cinematic ingenuity as John Woo's use of slow motion alone will induce an impressive adrenaline buzz.
Despite the straightforward plot, the film's pacing is very good too. The exposition is actually relevant to the narrative, and not just filler to space out the action scenes.
Chow Yun-Fat's charisma and screen presence add depth and humanity to an otherwise two dimensional character, and Tony Leung is brilliant in his portrayal of an undercover cop who's seen too much of the underworld's darkness.
But the most memorable aspect of this foreign film is the action.
Mayhem doesn't even begin to cover it. The last forty minutes is pretty much Die Hard in a hospital, only much, much more so. This jaw-dropper of an action movie is a shining example of what directors can accomplish when they're not restricted by insurance policies, union rules, or the MPAA.
The Bad: Some of the sound work is a bit spotty and the lighting could have been better in a few scenes.
Who would like this movie: Without question, this is one for dedicated action movie fans. You like Tarantino films? Robert Rodriguez films? Where do you think those guys got some of their ideas from?
Forget about the stuff Woo did after coming to America. Find this movie, order a large pizza, then have the guys and/or your tomboy girlfriends over. Love it or hate it, Hard Boiled will forever change the way you evaluate quality action flicks, and foreign films in general.