When three close friends escape from Hong Kong to war-time Saigon to start a criminal's life, they all go through a harrowing experience which totally shatters their lives and their friendship forever.
Tony Chiu Wai Leung,
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Mobsters are smuggling guns into Hong Kong. The police orchestrate a raid at a teahouse where an ace detective loses his partner. Meanwhile, the two main gun smugglers are having a war over territory, and a young new gun is enlisted to wipe out informants and overcome barriers to growth. The detective, acting from inside sources, gets closer to the ring leaders and eventually must work with the inside man directly. Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
If you're the average IMDB reader, you probably enjoy a good action movie every now and then, but you approach action films with a certain caution and skepticism (I can't blame you, even though I am an action junkie myself). If you're that kind of viewer, the score I would give (for you) for Hard-boiled is a 6.5. To you, this is a prototypical "good" action movie -- intense, perfectly executed, original action, shown to the tune of a forgettable and occasionally insulting story.
To action junkies, this movie is an easy 9, because the only thing that really matters is that the action is superb and the other elements, if not stellar, don't detract enough from the action to really make a difference.
Splitting the difference, we get an 8/10 -- an outstanding score.
Hard-boiled is the ultimate John Woo / Chow-Yun Fat collaboration. Chow plays an uncompromising Hong-Kong cop who "works" together with an undercover cop (an EXCELLENT Tony Leung) in the triad gun-running organization. Now, when I say "works," I mean "launches thousands of bullets, slugs, and explosive projectiles into HUNDREDS of mafioso baddies." This film has a RIDICULOUS amount of gunplay. Pretty much everyone you see on screen dies at some point. Those that don't die often come perilously close to dying, before getting up and moving on as if nothing had happened. The gunmen in this film have magical powers that enable them to fire about 100 rounds from a Beretta clip without having to reload. And the top good guys seem only vaguely concerned about the loss of innocent life -- at a teahouse, or a large hospital -- except for tiny baby life, of course -- as long as they get to kill the top triad guy. And the story... well... not incoherent, but completely implausible at many points.
Realistic? NO. Is the story good? NO. Is this relevant? Not particularly. You see, one watches a John Woo movie for two things: Strong lead characters; strong lead characters shooting their way to success in surreally choreographed gunplay scenes. "But what if I don't want to watch a movie just for that?" Well, this one forces you to! If you can stand action at all, you'll be glued to the screen the entire time. Chow is a good actor, and Tony Leung is probably even better here -- they make the obligatory story sequences compelling, and when they start firing their weapons, you can't take your eyes away. Slow-motion highlights bullets, explosions, and plaster and sparks flying every which way, even as the actors and stunt men acrobatically move through the air while evading enemy fire. It's a little hard to describe how great this really is, so you just have to take my word for it. Suffice it to say that no one does gunplay like Woo, although everyone and their mother tries. (James Cameron's technique with heavy weapons and muscular guys is the other way to do gunplay, and is great in its own, more limited right.) If you're a fan of Face/Off, an American John Woo movie that actually does not suck, you know what to expect -- but multiply that by 100.
The story and realism are not good, but this makes no difference. Suspend disbelief, and go with the flow, and you're treated to prime-quality action. There ARE however, elements of this film that drag it down quite a bit. Most of them, to me, concern Woo's depictions of violence. It's obvious the man revels in blood. Several times, you see blood spurt copiously and unnaturally -- onto a wall, a desk, even a man's or baby's face. While the action is generally frantic and quick, these shots are slow, deliberate, and in-your-face. Why? To cater to our basest instincts, like a cheap slasher film. With action scenes and character acting done so well, it's embarrassing to watch such gratuitous gore added into the mix. But that's not all! The script's "good" characters are not morally corrupt: You can see them actively trying to avoid other cops or innocent bystanders. This is superficial. The characters aren't corrupt; the final script is. At least 50 innocent people, including patients at a hospital, die violently. The film doesn't display this as a horrific event, but rather as part of the scenery, cannon fodder; the film even gets pretty despicable amusement from this, particularly in one scene involving a baby (don't worry! the baby is not hurt).
Technically speaking, the movie is perfect. Aesthetically speaking, the same is true, with the exception of the music, which is extremely cheesy at times (the sax that suddenly kicks in during "emotional" moments is unbearable -- is that some kind of HK movie thing, or what?).
Such negatives are distracting. Your ability to ignore such distractions will ultimately determine if you give this a 5 or a 9. Were it a little more humane, I'd give it a 9. As it stands, I give it: 8/10.
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