1992, NR, 126 min. Directed by John Woo. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung, Philip Chan, Bowie Lam, Kwan Hoi-Shan.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 10, 1993
(This print of Hard Boiled is John Woo's “director's cut” which includes several extra minutes deleted from the initial release print. Let's see... that ought to allow at least a couple hundred more gunshots and edits. We here reprint our review as we originally ran it.) From the opening moments of Hard Boiled, in which we see hair-trigger cop “Tequila” Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat) pour out a jigger of his namesake and jam on clarinet at a sleazy jazz club (and say, isn't that John Woo setting up all those Tequila Slammers behind the bar?), you get the feeling that you're in for something just a little bit out of the ordinary. As inspector Yuen, Chow Yun-Fat is once again back with his favorite director, and this time out he's nosing around illegal arms caches set up by one or more arms of the Golden Triad, those resolute runners of guns, drugs, and curiously bronzed birdcages. Chow's performance as Tequila brings a hyper-realistic new meaning to the term smooth: in the opening tearoom shootout sequence, he manages to go through clip after clip after clip, his 9mm braying like an ass on fire as he fluidly dives, rolls, and slides down the streamlined center of an escalator, killing god knows how many renegade arms dealers and never bothering to break a decent sweat. Action heroes like this are apparently stopped at America's borders. Woo's obsession with the virtues of brotherhood and betrayal are in full evidence, as when Chow teams up with cop Tony Leung to go undercover into a hospital housing a literally massive arms cache in its basement. In its final 30 minutes -- the notorious hospital shootout that director Martin Scorsese is rumored to be so fond of -- Hard Boiled approaches something like a kind of Zen violence, an aria of muzzle-flashes, bullet hits, and tightly-edited explosions. It's nirvana for seekers of action, and it rarely gets any better than this.