Wednesday, August 10, 2005


1992, Hong Kong, directed by John Woo

I've come to the conclusion that John Woo made one great movie -- The Killer -- and a whole lot of pictures that don't live up to the hype generated by action-movie nerds. Hard-Boiled is a case in point, particularly given that the (now out-of-print) DVD was given the full Criterion Collection treatment. Like most high-profile Woo movies, Chow Yun-Fat is front and centre here, waving around more artillery than Rambo on a bad-hair day. He plays a trigger-happy cop -- and they say John Woo is original! -- who's usually as much of a danger to his own side as he is to the bad guys; he teams up with an undercover cop (Tony Leung) who works inside the Triads, to take down a gun-running operation. The plot is incredibly disjointed, as befits a film whose only raison d'être is the use of as many bullets as possible. In other Woo films, the action scenes advance the plot to some degree, whereas here they stop things in their tracks: many of the sequences are needlessly protracted and, even by HK standards, wildly over the top. The key scenes, such as a shootout in a hospital, dispense with ridiculous numbers of people (even with the requisite suspension of disbelief, it's impossible to accept that World War III could take place in a hospital without a more robust police/military response in colonial Hong Kong). The obligatory 'quiet moments' are pretty ham-fisted, too, with horribly soft-focus music and clichéd buddy material. Contrasted with a film like Infernal Affairs, this is pretty poor stuff to be getting excited about.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States