Today I watched John Woo’s Hard Boiled (1992)
Here we are with what may be John Woo’s most popular film (perhaps one notable exception we will get to later) and one of the most critically praised action films in history. Much like in A Better Tomorrow, John Woo uses the structure of an action film to explore the bonds between two heterosexual men in a serious manner, he never has his tongue in his cheek and I appreciate this so much, as it is a real spectrum of emotions that deserves to be explored with more seriousness and tact than Seth Rogen and James Franco playing gay-chicken with one another.
Once again Woo is working with actor Chow Yun-Fat and this time he is paired with Tony Leung; these are two of the best actors to ever come out of Hong Kong and their charisma and talent are on full display here. Chow Yun-Fat plays the smooth jazz playing, twin gun toting badass cop with the zany name of Inspector Tequila who is on the trail of a circle of gun runners, unfortunately his gung-ho attitude gets him in a lot of trouble. Leung plays his counterpart, a sports car driving, sweet shades sporting, cool as a cucumber, undercover cop who is in with the aforementioned gun runners.
The character of a trigger happy cop has come under even more scrutiny lately, and with good reason. Police men with itchy trigger fingers simply put are not heroes, yet we have a whole tonne of films like this one in which such characters are our protagonists and many of these films are classics. So how do we reconcile this destructive behavior in films considered some of the best of the action genre? Well I think the answer is different for different films and some of these old classics deserve to be thrown under the bus with the likes of Birth of a Nation. But in this case the film seems wholly aware of downside of Tequila’s actions and his coming to grips with that forms a character arc, it isn’t bad to have immoral characters like him, as long as the film addresses the it as such, as this film does.
Hard Boiled is a smart and exciting action movies, easily among the best in it’s genre. It is jam packed with the some of the most intense violence ever seen in film and the Hospital finale is one of the best sequences of total carnage ever put to celluloid. Yet for all the back to back thrills, the character drama is not sacrificed in the slightest. While it is less grounded than A Better Tomorrow, the pulpiness of the characters does not distract from the reality of their emotions and situation. This film deserves all the praise it gets and is a must see for all the action lovers out there. 5/5