My god how have I never seen Hard Boiled before?! I knew the stories about it, I knew it was featured on damn near every list of the greatest action movies, a copy of it has been sitting on my blu ray shelf for quite some time now, and yet I never sat down and actually watched it. I am so mad at my past self right now as instead of my first viewing, this could have been like my eighth. So much wasted time spent not watching this movie!
A longer review after that initial paragraph is probably unnecessary but let’s continue forward anyway. Hard Boiledis a god damn excellent action movie. I’m mostly familiar with the movies director John Woo has made in America like Hard Target, Mission Impossible II and Hulk. All entertaining but not mind-blowing pictures by any means. But this Hard Boiled man, holy shit. Let me try and get some actual coherent words out about this one here.
Chow Yun Fat is a badass cop who plays the jazz flute and isn’t afraid to get up in his angry police chief’s face. He eventually teams up with an undercover cop and then lots and lots and lots and lots of ridiculous and awesome shooting happens. There is some other story stuff in there with crosses and double crosses but I’ve told you the important stuff.
I’ve already complained a couple of times this month about movies where the blu ray case claims they are “action-packed!” but then they don’t follow through ton that promise. Here’s a movie where that description fits it perfectly and it’s nowhere to be found on the case. There is a proclamation that it’s like “Die Hard times eight” which feels like a step over the line but let it be said by me (and millions of others on the Internet I suppose as well) that Hard Boiled is easily one of the most action packed action movies I have seen in ….ever I guess.
Many action movies spread out their set pieces and then go for broke in the finale. Hard Boiled is damn near non-stop and by the time you get to the final hospital shootout that takes up the final 30 minutes, you’ve already witnessed a whole bunch of insane shootouts. It sounds like it should get repetitive but constant variety and an incessant need to outdo itself keep things fresh and save it from becoming monotonous. To give an example of how great the action is, there’s a part around the middle of the movie where two gangs have a huge shootout in the middle of an abandoned warehouse. It goes on for quite a while, the scope is huge and it’s great fun. Then when it appears to be winding down you’re thinking to yourself “man, now THAT is how you do a shootout.” Then suddenly Chow Yun Fat comes smashing through the roof, swinging on a rope and gunning down everyone in sight. This is before he gets a hold of his magic shotgun that never needs reloading and can kill a target instantly at any range and starts shooting dudes on motorcycles who promptly explode. Oh and this isn’t even the best action sequence in the movie by the way.
No that honour goes to the previously mentioned hospital shootout which makes up the movie’s entire final act. This thing is just fucking nuts. The hospital is completely decimated by the end as windows, walls and people are gunned down and blown up. There’s even an impressive tracking shot where it follows the two leads as they proceed down numerous hallways, taking out bad guys all along the way. It’s really impressive and it’s strange that I never see this mentioned amongst the greatest tracking shots in cinema because it damn sure should be in there.
While the story does take a back seat to the action, what’s there is still memorable thanks largely to interesting characters as the story itself is a pretty clichéd undercover cop tale. Chow Yun Fat’s “Tequila” is a great character. He’s kind of a jerk but also the kind of guy who saves a baby from an exploding hospital and sings lullabies to it while shooting people in the face. You also get a memorable bad guy in the form of Mad Dog, who you know is worth watching right away when he leans into the flame on a burning car in order to light a cigarette. The engaging characters make it so that you’re not just waiting patiently for the next shootout to begin.
Hard Boiled is definitely amongst my biggest surprises of this marathon as I knew it would be good but I wasn’t sure I was prepared for just good it really is. The Internet isn’t bullshitting you, you really do need to watch this movie immediately.