I cannot believe it took me ten years to rewatch Hard Boiled. I have certainly spent the last ten years enthusiastically telling people how great it is and they need to watch it but what I really should have been doing is forcing those people to watch Hard Boiled right at the moment I thought to recommend it. C’mon, like what they were doing was better than this movie? Fat chance. Of course it may not have been physically possible to watch Hard Boiled at that exact moment (wedding, in a bar, at a house party, between acts at a music festival) but sometimes sacrifices have to be made and if you are going to do any sacrificing do it at the altar of John Woo’s Hard Boiled.
Watching Hard Boiled ten years ago, I recall screaming a lot, a hallmark of many a great action film. Not screams of fear but that of joyous “That happened and I thought something like that could never happen and now I’m a better person” kind of scream. HB is chockablock with screamy moments, like when Chow Yun Fat slides down a railing firing two guns at the same time. Or when Tony Leung pops out a boat and smokes a guy like an armed jack in a box.
I couldn’t recall the plot of Hard Boiled and was surprised to see it used the old undercover-cop-wants-to-get-out-before-he-is-in-too-deep bit. That it also incorporates the cop-on-the-edge-turn-in-your-badge bit as well means that there is little room for anything but badass badassness. Chow Yun Fat’s cop on the edge is named Tequila and he likes to rappel into chop shop warehouses and have insane gun battles. He also likes to play clarinet and he can chew a toothpick and smoke a cigerette at the same time. Tony Leung’s undercover cop is named Alan(!) and he tends to look more concerned about the crazy things Tequila drags him into. Tequila thinks Alan needs to relax and realize that “Life should be fun”. Right after he says this they slide out of some mortuary freezers and mow down a whole room of bad guys. Fun!
I completely forgot about that character of Mad Dog. Portrayed by Philip Kwok, Mad Dog comes from a long line of quiet badass bad guys. He doesn’t say much but he certainly knows how to blow up a trailer with grenade, barrelroll past the explosion and gun down the guys coming to see what the commotion is all about. Slick. Kwok looked familiar to me and I was not at all surprised to see that right before filming Hard Boiled he had worked on Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky. Two classics! He also featured in a movie called The Sword Stained with Royal Blood. I cannot vouch for the quality but that title is A plus. Mad Dog has some cool honor codes, like when he disagrees with the murder of an entire hospital and puts down his gun so that some patients can leave the room that his gunfight has stumbled upon. Mad Dog is a bad guy, not a monster.
Now Johnny Wong, that guy is a fucking animal. So Chow Yun Fat pops him in the eye.
Can I tell you about my favorite part of Hard Boiled? I mean, besides all the other parts I’ve mentioned above. It happens right after the shootout at Alan’s houseboat. Alan is suffering from a shotgun blast to the back and Tequila has just helped him kill a shit load of bad guys. What is that? Oh no, Johnny Wong is en route to the dock and if he sees Alan with Tequila then the jig will be up! Tequila says,”I gotta get out of here. I’ll see you soon,” turns around and dives right into the water, clothes and all. I cannot express how both hilarious and awesome this moment is. Also, practical.
Hard Boiled is still the gold standard for action movies. Vern called it “Die Hard times ten“. I think it might be Die Hard times 20. Maybe even 30. Did I mention that periodically throughout Hard Boiled Tequila will go to a bar and get advice from John Woo? Yes, it is true. And it tends to be pretty good advice too. More directors should do this. I would have liked seeing Tom Cruise get help from Spielberg during Minority Report.