• Hard Boiled

    Hard Boiled
    Dragon Dynasty
    Director: John Woo
    Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Anthony Wong, Philip Kwok, Teresa Mo, Tony Leung
    Year: 1992

    The Movie:

    307 deaths, 200 different firearms and over 100,000 rounds of ammunition give John Woo’s 1992 masterpiece, Hard Boiled, more action than any one film truly deserves but in the hands of such a capable director, it’s pure, unadulterated bullet ballet bliss. The last film Woo would make before ‘going Hollywood’ and directing Van Damme in Hard Target, Hard Boiled once again sees the director working with Chow Yun Fat, arguably the coolest leading man in the history of Hong Kong cinema. Here the actor plays Inspector Yuen, better known to his friends and foes as Tequila, a Dirty Harry-esque cop who doesn’t have a problem bending the law a little bit if it helps him catch the bad guys.

    When his partner gets killed, Tequila makes it his mission to bring in a mob boss named Johnny Wong (Anthony Wong) and while trying to do so forms an alliance with an undercover cop named Tony (Tony Leung) posing as one of Wong’s right hand men. They decide to work as a team to bring Wong down and put a stop to his quickly expanding criminal empire.

    Made to silence those critics who criticized Woo for glamorizing gangsters and criminals in earlier films like The Killer, Hard Boiled turns the tables and this time focuses on the police, showing them as heroic and noble if ultimately human. Of course, this being an action movie first and foremost the bullet ballet and carnage come before character development but with Tequila Woo gives us an interesting and likeable enough character, even if he’s very obviously heavily influenced by Eastwood’s legendary Harry Callahan.

    Made as a follow up of sorts to The Killer, Hard Boiled doesn’t quite reach the same emotional depths as that earlier picture provides but it definitely ups the ante as far as the action set pieces are concerned. From the now famous opening shoot out inside a tea room (which was about to be torn down before Woo managed to get it for a few days for the film) to a mind blowing set piece in a warehouse involving motorcycles and more firearms than you can imagine, Hard Boiled delivers as much action, excitement and intensity as any one film can. Logic isn’t important here, so don’t expect realism, but for sheer spectacle, this is a picture that’s tough to beat.

    As far as the performances go, it’s pretty hard to argue against Chow Yun Fat’s trendsetting performance here. He’s as cool as they come, calm and collected for the most part but angry enough when it suits him. This is the type of role he’s always excelled in and Woo’s infamous penchant for pushing this particular actor really brings out the most in his work on this film. Pairing him up with Tony Leung further cements the film’s ‘cool’ factor in a big way, and you couldn’t ask for a better bad guy than Anthony Wong. Typically associated with the nastiness of Cat III films like The Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome, Wong’s performance here is a bit mellower and more controlled than some might hope for, but he’s excellent in the part and entirely sinister in every possible way. If good villains are the kind you want to boo and hiss at, then Wong’s character is one of the best.

    Loaded with more style than any one film has the right to claim ownership of, Hard Boiled remains a high point not just in Hong Kong cinema but in action cinema period. Often imitated but never duplicated, it’s a rare thing of beauty, a deliciously slick work of stylish ultra violence that cares not for logic but wants only to captivate and to entertain.


    Hard Boiled hits Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer that, by the standards of the format, is pretty middle of the road. It definitely offers an upgrade over previous DVD releases but it never hits the levels of high definition nirvana that the best transfers do. There’s a bit of print damage noticeable throughout, but this isn’t nearly as problematic as the noise reduction that’s noticeable in some scenes which scrubs out facial detail on some of the performers. Some scenes definitely show more of this than others, and it’s not a constant problem, but you’ll definitely notice it if you’re susceptible to such things. Colors generally look pretty good and detail is certainly better than the DVD format could ever offer, but this isn’t a massive upgrade in quality. It’s better, to be sure, but not by miles.

    Cantonese tracks are offered up in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and in Dolby Digital Mono while an English track is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The DTS-HD track has the most power and punch of the three on the disc and will likely be the first choice for most viewers, but be aware that the subtitles translate the English dubbed track and not the Cantonese track. Channel separation is solid and bass response gives the explosions quite a bit of welcome punch though they don’t seem to give the gunshots the sort of boom you might want them to have, instead they sound a bit tinny. Levels are well balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about. Directional effects aren’t quite as prominent as you might hope but they’re there and the score is spread out fairly well.

    There aren’t any new extras here, but most (though not all) of the supplements from the Ultimate Edition 2-disc DVD release have been carried over to this Blu-ray disc starting with Bey Logan’s amiable commentary. Logan’s a pretty likeable guy and he knows his stuff, which makes him easy to listen to. He might not reveal much to those who know this movie like the back of their hand, but his track is a really primer to the film and its legacy and it also provides some welcome background on the cast, crew and production.

    John Woo himself takes the spotlight next in a featurette entitled Baptism Of Fire. This is essentially a thirty-eight minute sit down chat with the director in which he talks about making this film and shares some interesting stories about working with the cast and crewmembers from this shoot, including a great story about how Chow Yun Fat was almost burned when one of the pyrotechnic effects got to be a little too realistic. He also discusses some of the original story ideas for the film and how they changed into what you see on the screen. Also interviewed on this disc are actors Philip Chan and Kwok Chai for sixteen and twenty-five minutes respectively. The two actors share some good information about what it’s like to work on a John Woo film, how some of their co-stars were to deal with, and about how they feel about the film in general and both are quite informative. Rounding out the extras on the disc is are some animated menus, chapter stops and an eight minute bit about the locations used in the film featuring Kea Wong as your tour guide.

    While this is a nice selection of supplements, Dragon Dynasty has, for some reason, axed the Stranglehold video game sequel promo spot, the US theatrical trailer and the Terence Chang interview that was included on their Ultimate Edition DVD release. All of the extras on this Blu-ray release are in standard definition.

    The Final Word:

    Hard Boiled still kicks just as much ass as it did in 1992 and the movie remains a high point in action movie cinema thanks to Woo’s over the stop direction and Chow’s fantastically cool performance. Dragon Dynasty’s Blu-ray does offer an upgrade in quality over the DVD release, but it’s not a massive one and the fact that it’s missing a couple of extras from that DVD release is also a disappointment, even if there’s still quite a good selection of extras to geek out over. Ultimately, the low MSRP makes this one worth picking up, just don’t go in expecting perfection, as there’s been some room left for improvement here.

    Want more information? Check out the Dragon Dynasty website by clicking here!

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    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Gory's Avatar
      Gory -
      I just picked this up. I LOVE John Woo so I'll get any of his stuff. Too bad on the transfer and missing supplements. I'm still happy with getting something though. Hopefully one day someone will do this film justice.