Even if John Woo’s 1992 magnum opus consisted of nothing but the celebrated opening sequence—a ten-minute gun battle in a teahouse—followed by credits, Hard-Boiled would still be considered the last word in hyperkinetic Hong Kong action flicks. The scene is a model of perfectly choreographed Peckinpah-esque mayhem: Cops and criminals bust open birdcages full of Glocks, while cameras circle, dart and zoom into the fray with breathtaking precision. And when Chow Yun-Fat slides down a banister into instant iconography, you can practically hear fanboys everywhere clapping and hooting in eternal admiration. There’s more to the movie than just that showstopper, of course: Chow’s jazz-loving detective, “Tequila” Yuen, teams up with a brooding undercover agent (Tony Leung) to infiltrate a gunrunning operation, allowing the filmmaker to exercise his trademark mix of male bonding and ballistics, while the initial flying-lead showdown is reprised in a hospital maternity ward.
Criterion’s 1998 DVD of Woo’s masterpiece has long been out of print, and sadly, none of that edition’s superb extras make it onto Dragon Dynasty’s rerelease. But if this two-disc set doesn’t qualify as definitive, it’s damned close. HK-cinema scholar Bey Logan offers a superbly geeky commentary, rattling off filmographies like an idiot savant (at one point, he casually throws in a bit player’s birth date). Other supplements include new interviews with the director, producer Terence Chang, costar Philip Chan and actor/action coordinator Kwok Choi, as well as an informative location guide. The teahouse, by the way, has been replaced by a shopping center.
Cast and crew
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang