1992, Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Teresa Mo Shun-kwan,
Anthony Wong Chau-sang, Philip Chan, Kuo Chui, Bowie Lam, Bobby Ah Yuen
Directed by John Woo
Hong Kong Cinema is a deck full of action aces, but John Woo's Hard-Boiled is
the trump. This tale of gunrunners, double agents, and innocents caught in
between showcases several action sequences that suck your jaw to the floor.
Hard-Boiled is Woo's most spectacular film and an absolute must-see; it will
convert anybody to the HK cause.
Hard-Boiled revolves around an intense platonic relationship between two men
in a violent world. loyalty is all, superseding both law enforcement and
criminal careers. Either way, you pack a gun and use it when necessary.
Hard-Boiled plainclothesman Tequila (Chow Yun Fat) moonlights as a clarinet
player in a neon lounge. Tequila and his drammer, fellow cop Lionheart (Bowie
Lam), go for an early morning dim sum in the Wyndham Teahouse, a Hong Kong
landmark where customers bring along their own caged birds to sing tableside. In
the Large, crowded teahouse, gun-smuggling mobsters hide their gats in
false-bottomed birdcages. Tequila blows their cover, and a trademark John Woo
gun battle steeps the teeming teahouse in flying slugs and birds. As Lionheart
bites it, Tequila chases crooks by sliding sidesaddle down a banister-toothpick
in mouth and automatic blazing. In the kitchen, he skids across a countertop and
is powdered with flour; white-faced as a ghost, he terminates the villain with a
squirting shot to the head.
As the web unfolds, we meet Tequila's apparent nemesis, Tony (played by Tony
Leung, who is often called Tony "Hard Boiled" Leung because of his
great performance). He's a flamboyant underworld killer working for the powerful
Mr. Hoi. His trigger skills are coveted by Hoi's gunrunning rival, Johnny
(Anthony Wong), who also covets Hoi's empire. Johnny's men assault Hoi's
warehouse in a spectacular battle-slick, violent and beautiful-with phalanxes of
motorcycles, breathtaking tracking shots and Johnny's top gunman Mad Dog (Kuo
Chui) greasing row after row of Hoi's men. Loser Hoi dies stoically, just as
lone cop Tequila rappels down from the warehouse ceiling.
More rounds are uncapped as Tequila disassembles what remains of the
assembled armies. It ends with Tony and Tequila exploring their psychic bond by
pointing guns at each other's heads, but the crucial chamber-for once-is empty.
As it turns out, Tony is also a cop, but he has gone so far undercover that
routine hits don't mean anything to him anymore. As the two cops gradually
realize they are on the same side, they uncover Johnny's arsenal, stashed in the
basement of a hospital. It's in this hospital where Hard-Boiled resolves itself.
The entire third act is a half-hour action sequence that dwarfs the offerings
of most action movies in their entirety. The battle against Johnny and his
legion of "killable dogs" assumes epic proportions as patients are
used as pawns and bullets fly like horizontal sleet. Tequila and Tony
battle the entire length of a hospital corridor together, step forward as
elevator doors close behind them, enjoy a few moments of calm and conference,
then start over on a different floor.
And, just when you think the stakes can't get any higher, Tequila and
policewoman Teresa have to move a nursery full of babies to safety. As
cops and crooks die right and left, Tequila cradles a sanguine tyke named Saliva
Sammy in one arm while his free hand cradles a warm pistol. Sticking cotton
balls in Sammy's ears, Tequila blasts away and prepares to escape, but
accidentally catches on fire. Fortunately, the child pees and douses the
fire. The underground arsenal explodes, and fireballs blow through the
hospital, but the babies are saved, the bad guy croaks, and the audience settles
back with a loud "Whew".
Credit: "Sex and Zen & A Bullet in the Head" by Stefan Hammond
& Mike Wilkins. This is a wonderful English guide to the films of Hong