Title: Hard Boiled (1992)
Director: John Woo
Stars: Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung and Anthony Wong
Hard Boiled is a tale of two cops; one a grizzled detective and the other who is so deep undercover, he wonders if he will ever get out. Alan (Leung) is working his way up through the ranks of a Triad gang, trying to infiltrate them and cosy up to their boss (Wong), so that he can take them down. Along the way he must perform some unpleasant tasks, such as taking out rival dealers and some old friends. Meanwhile, Tequila (CYF) is also investigating the gang, but his superior has not informed him that there is an undercover cop already on the scene. This leads to tension between Tequila and his boss. Eventually Tequila and Alan team up to take the Triad boss down in a massive multi-storey shoot-out.
This is one of CYF’s greatest performances, being almost as good as his role in The Killer (1989). Once again, acting super cool, sporting two pistols and gnawing on a toothpick, really seemed to work well. This film was a also star cementing role for Tony Leung. His is a diverse performance; acting cool and cocky when he’s with his gang, but emotionally unstable when alone with his handler. Anthony Wong, who plays the gang boss, is also worth watching, due to his rather unusual appearance. He memorably portrayed the Martin Sheen character from The Departed in the original 2002 version, Infernal Affairs, which also starred Tony Leung.
Like most CYF/John Woo films, Hard Boiled is all about guns, explosions, heart stopping action and yet more guns. The movie is built around three huge shoot-outs, one each at the beginning, middle and end. The first gun-fight occurs in a tea-house, which provides ample room for improvisation. This scene is famous for CYF’s slide down a bannister while simultaneously firing two pistols, and also for the bit where he shoots a goon while covered in flour. The second shoot-out is even more spectacular than the first, featuring dozens of henchmen/cannon fodder and massive explosions. The third film ending gun-party is incredible, a masterclass in action and suspense, as CYF and Tony Leung move through various floors of a hospital killing and blowing up anything that moves, including their own fellow cops.
Hard Boiled was the last great CYF/Woo collaboration before they both left for Hollywood a few years later to decidedly mixed results. This movie just falls short of The Killer thanks to a truly awful sub-plot involving the rescue of babies, which almost derails the film. CYF’s girlfriend is also intensely annoying and should have been axed. Even if this picture only contained one of the three shoot-out scenes, it would have been very good, but the inclusion of all three elevated Hard Boiled into something much more than your average run of the mill action movie.