Hard Boiled is about a tough cop nicknamed Tequila (Chow Yun Fat) who's been trying to bring down a gun smuggling ring operating out of Hong Kong. When his partner Benny is killed after a skirmish by a rival gang, Tequila makes it his personal mission to see it through, despite being ordered off the case. Alan (Tony Leung) is loyal to Mr Hoi (Hoi-San Kwan), but after Johnny Wong (Anthony Chau-Sang Wong) persuades Alan to switch sides and come work for him and feeling like there's no other way, Alan defects to Johnny Wong. Tequila ambushes this massive meeting and after a huge firefight, Tequila and Alan come face to face and Tequila tries to shoot him in the head, but is out of bullets, Alan walks away without firing a shot.
Confused, Tequila demands answers from his superior and finds out that Alan is an undercover cop, so Tequila tracks him down and the two have a brief conversation before being attacked by remnants of Mr Hoi's gang. Alan gets in tight with Johnny Wong's gang by executing any and all snitches and enemies who get in his way as he's coordinating with Tequila and the police in order to bring the new and ruthless 'king of guns' down. Hard Boiled has quite the prestigious legacy as an action movie, often hailed as the best of its kind, so I had high expectations for it going in, sadly it didn't even begin to approach greatness for me. I see Hard Boiled often being compared to other undeniably great action movies like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, but it's not even close, it's not even in the same ballpark they are.
The pacing is incredibly fast, it practically whizzes by as the movie feels more like an exercise in staged violence than it does in telling in a compelling story with an intriguing plot. The plot is practically non-existent and nonsensical anyway, apparently the screenwriter died before he could finish the script and John Woo even started filming before he finished the script was finished. You can tell how erratic and disjointed it feels as a movie because of it, the narrative is all over the place. The last minute insertion of the all too ubiquitous character of Mad Dog (Phillip Kwok Chung-Fung) became unintentionally comical. Mad Dog had more lives than a cat, and I believe the movie would have been more linear if his presence was kept minimal, or even removed entirely.
Hard Boiled needed a stronger and more intimidating villain, and one who made logical decisions for a start. That entire sequence at the end, just why? Yes, it was technically impressive action and the long-take was extremely well choreographed, as was the action in general, but there was no point or logic to it whatsoever. Action without emotion or logic quickly becomes tedious and boring, where the violence in Bullet in the Head was tense and involving, the violence in Hard Boiled was empty. I was also surprised at how flippant John Woo was with cops killing other cops, like it was no big deal. The chemistry between Tequila and Alan was good, but there was too little of it. I love action movies, so I was generally predisposed to like this movie, but Hard Boiled felt like it was John Woo at his most self-indulgent and sloppy when it comes to the finished product. The action was good for the most part, but the story was in shambles and near incoherent.
Written by - The Sentry - 30/12/2015