Hard Boiled (John Woo, 1992)


Yun-Fat Chow (Tequila), Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Alan), Philip Kwok (Mad Dog), Philip Chan (Pang), Wei Tung (Foxy), Hoi-Shan Kwan (Mr. Hoi). Screenplay by Barry Wong. Directed by John Woo. Rating: 18. Running time: 128 minutes.

Get me a thesaurus, because the two most apt adjectives that spring to mind here – ridiculous and outrageous – aren’t going to do justice to just how insane Hard Boiled is. This isn’t a film, it’s an action game (and if you think I’m joking just look here). You know when you were a kid and on Playstation games you used to be James Bond or whoever, and if you had a gun you’d just hold down the fire button for the entire game whilst walking around, blowing everybody’s heads off as blood splatters on your screen? Well if you were to make a film of these action sequences then the result would probably be something strikingly similar to Hard Boiled. Even its story is about as relevant and clear as those little snippets interspersed throughout video games. It’s just utterly ridiculous how much of the film is devoted to watching men shoot each other. It’s actually even filmed like a game in parts, when we follow one man – Tequila (apparently that’s his name; all you need to know is that he’s a maniacal Hong Kong cop) – ducking, diving and reloading as he travels down a corridor shooting everyone who gets in his way.

Yes, automatic weapons will still be ringing in your ears long after Hard Boiled has finished. And if it’s not gunfire you’re hearing, it’ll be the ever-present explosions of whatever’s in sight: cars, motorbikes, or even in the end, after what my DVD case describes as the film’s ‘climax’ (if that’s the way to describe an hour long shoot out), a damn hospital. I suppose I should have guessed how crazy it would be purely by virtue of the character names: along with Tequila, we have Pang, Foxy, ‘Mad Dog’ and a Chinese ‘Alan’ (?), the latter played by none other than the Tony Leung I’m used to seeing in dialogue-driven Wong Kar-wai films. No doubt he enjoyed the break from having to learn too many lines here, even if the death of screenwriter Barry Wong apparently meant director John Woo had to improvise some of the gangster talk for his actors to say on set. Anyway, I get the impression Woo must have just said ‘fuck it’ to dialogue in the end. ‘Who needs talk when you’ve got lots of guns?’ seems to be his motto. Hard Boiled is its absolutely bonkers cinematic manifestation.

One Response to “Hard Boiled (John Woo, 1992)”

  1. 1 Heat (Michael Mann, 1995) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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