Saturday, 20 June 2009

Movie Review: Hard Boiled (Part of E14's John Woo Double Feature)

Hard Boiled
Review by Blake Harmer


What is best in life? Is it finding love? Is it having a great job? Is it to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Apparently, if you are in Hard Boiled, it is kill people in the flashiest way possible, in mid air, possibly whilst wielding two guns. If that doesn’t sound awesome to you, then it probably means that you are either dead, or your life is so entertaining that the thought of high action frenetic gun battles and explosions are too lame as they are a big part of your life already.

The story begins with our hero, Inspector “Tequila” Yeun (Chow Yun Fat), going undercover with his partner to expose an illegal gun smuggling ring in a tea house where there is a deal going down. In their attempt to arrest the smugglers, a huge firefight ensues, leading to much acrobatic gunplay and Tequila’s partner being killed whilst saving him from a smuggler with a machine gun. Tequila then goes after evil mob boss Johnny Wong, leader of the illegal gun ring to avenge his dead partner and finally close the case. Whilst this is going on, Wong is having a war over territory with another gun Smuggler, Mr Hui. Wong tries to tempt over a hired gun called Tony Long, who is already loyal to Mr Hui, to work for him, but there seems to be more to this hired gun than first meets the eye...

Hard Boiled is one of the great action movies; the sad thing is that they don’t really make action films like this anymore. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, you couldn’t turn without seeing an awesome piece of explosive entertainment with Arnie, Van Damme, or Stallone going out and blowing people up and saying cool one liners and then killing more people in a hail of bullets. Hard Boiled doesn’t really contain any cool one liners but makes up with it with some of the coolest stunts you can do during a gun battle. The action set pieces are usually incredibly frenetic, with people diving through the air, shooting from motorbikes, doing somersaults, sliding down rails, destroying half of the environment around them and being filled with about 50 bullets when they finally do die. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the teahouse shoot out at the beginning of the movie:







And that’s just the beginning of the film, the set pieces just get better and better with some of the final set pieces in a hospital being one of the greatest action set pieces of all time. There is also excellent cinematography with great angles and, slow-mo bits highlighting the action. A personal favourite was in one of the last few action pieces where the camera is permanently fixed behind Tequila as he works his way through hospital corridors taking out bad guys left, right and centre.

Awesome action set pieces aside; the film does have a fairly good story to boot. The film does show some of the difficult and lonely life of being an undercover police officer. It may seem very generic and similar to lots of police action movies such as Lethal Weapon but it’s good enough to hold your interest in between the high action explosions and leaping through windows.

As action movies go though, it still has a couple of flaws. I feel that the film could have developed Tequila’s character a little bit more than a vengeful hard boiled super cop. Very little is said about his life apart from a love interest in the form of Madam (his colleague at the police station). You learn enough about him to like him as a hero, but the character development seems to focus more on the hired gun Tony Long as he does contribute the largest part to the story. Another flaw lies with the actual DVD, as if you choose to watch it as a subtitled Chinese film, then the subtitles are not in sync with the movie and it can therefore be confusing as to who is saying what. Thankfully there is a dubbed English soundtrack on the DVD so I recommend you watch that version. (I sadly persevered with the subtitled version before looking and finding a dubbed soundtrack *smacks head*)

All in all though you probably won’t really care about these flaws, as you’ll be too interested in people being shot repeatedly in the chest by a super cop flying through the air with a machine gun. Go forth and watch one of the most E14 action films out there.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: As mentioned earlier, several people are shot to death a high energy ballet of death and destruction with several large explosions and gunfire. There is a very high body count and an even higher bullet count. There are a few scenes of blood splatter in the film but not loads to say this is a complete splatter fest. 10/10

Swearing: A few uses of swearing but not enough to get overly excited about. 6/10

Sex/Nudity: None, unless you count naked babies in the hospital, but that’s just wrong. 0/10

Other factors in its favour:

This is a classic Hong Kong Action film and has been a huge inspiration many other great action films such as the Matrix, and computer games such as Max Payne, which ironically didn’t come close to being this awesome when it was adapted into a film last year.

Overall:
This is arguably John Woo’s best film and sadly an achievement he hasn’t been able to reproduce when he came over to America. It could also make a great video game, which is great because a spiritual sequel to Hard Boiled was made in the form of a computer game as John Woo’s Stranglehold. But you’ll see what Rob thought of that in his accompanying article. If you love action movies or are a big fan of film in general then this is a must see for you. 9/10











Don't forget that John Woo's latest movie, Red Cliff, is in cinemas nationwide.

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