By Kurly Tlapoyawa
Lat Sau San Taam
Directed by John Woo
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung, Teresa Mo, Philip Chan, Philip Kwok, Anthony Wong
Back in the day, the No. 1 source in town for Psychotronic movie rentals was a little shop on Lead called Wavy Brain—which was owned and operated by none other than local filmmaker Scott Phillips (creator of The Stink of Flesh and the upcoming Gimme Skelter). Every week, I would make the trek into town from Los Lunas in order to soothe my burning desire for all things trash cinema. One fateful day, I asked Scott if he could help me find the title of the film Patricia Arquette’s character was watching on TV in True Romance. I can still remember that day like it was yesterday. It was the day everything changed for me—as if I had undergone some sort of cinematic revelation. It was, of course, the day I was introduced to John Woo films. (She was watching A Better Tomorrow II, by the way.)
You see, prior to churning out a slew of mediocre American action flicks (Hard Target, Broken Arrow), John Woo was revered as the god of Hong Kong action shoot-’em-ups. And boy howdy was this a title he deserved. From the incredible action sequences of The Killer to the powerful antiwar message of Bullet In The Head, Woo mixed over-the-top, hyper-stylized violence with in-depth characterization and beautiful cinematography—and the results were pure perfection. So I was more than a little pleased to discover the Dragon Dynasty label has decided to release the highly coveted John Woo classic Hard Boiled on DVD, as a Two-Disc Ultimate Edition, no less!
Hard Boiled stars the charismatic Hong Kong megastar Chow Yun-Fat (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Tequila, a tough-as-nails cop prone to gunfights and late nights in jazz clubs. After an incredible opening sequence set in a teahouse (seriously, the first 15 minutes of this film are packed with more action than all the Die Hard flicks combined), Tequila’s partner is killed in action. Naturally, Tequila vows revenge on the gun smugglers responsible for this death.
Along the way, he teams up with an undercover cop played by Tony Leung (Infernal Affairs). Together, they leave a trail of bloodshed, bodies and bullets in their wake. The plot is pretty simple, but it’s the sense of urgency motivating the characters and the way in which the actors inhabit their roles that drive this film full tilt. (Not to mention a billion rounds of ammunition!)
The thing that first struck me about this film is that the bad guys in John Woo movies are all evil sons of bitches. Innocent bystanders are frequently mowed down without mercy. So when the final action sequence featured a nursery ward in a hospital, I was a little nervous. Fortunately, we have Tequila and Tony on the job, so you can rest easy and just enjoy the carnage that ensues.
The gun battles are brilliant—elevating violence to a ballet-like art form. The first time I watched this movie it took about four hours to finish, because my brother and I were constantly rewinding the tape out of disbelief (after lifting our jaws up off the ground). The teahouse gunfight is quite possibly the greatest shootout ever committed to film. Simply put, Hard Boiled is the movie that American action movies want to be when they grow up.
As far as the DVD goes, Dragon Dynasty packed this thing with enough goodies to have fanboys creamin’ in their jeans for weeks. The two-disc set comes with a sweet anamorphic widescreen print, featuring audio commentary by Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan. The second disc is fully loaded with interviews, a John Woo featurette, a location guide and trailers for the Hong Kong and U.S. releases. The cover itself is a little weak. I mean, come on—out of all the wicked posters put out over the years for this movie, this is the best they could do? But that’s just being nitpicky. This Two-Disc Ultimate Edition is about as perfect as you can get for a DVD release. If you consider yourself a fan of action films at all, then you need to own this DVD! (Dragon Dynasty, $19.95)
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