Kaleb does Hard Boiled [plus retro review]

rhardboiled“Hey!  X-rated action!”

The Scoop: 1992 R, directed by John Woo, and starring Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung and Anthony Wong.

Tagline: As a cop, he has brains, brawn and an instinct to kill.

Summary Capsule: Inspector “Tequila” Yuen and co. endeavor to bring peace to the crime-plagued streets of Hong Kong, by killing everyone and destroying a variety of furniture and decorations.


Kaleb’s Rating: If advances in prosthetic technology continue like they have been, then perhaps one day, three-gun action will be a reality.

Kaleb’s Review: I’m not the easiest guy to recommend things to.

Case in point: The anime Cowboy Bebop.  It’s purportedly the best thing since Texas toast, and my failure to watch it is a cardinal sin, which no amount of bisexual robot chicks can cover over.

Heather’s all the time on my case about it, and I generally grumble some half-assed dodge, like, “I’ll watch it as soon as I finish the anime I’m currently watching,” or “I’ll watch it once I recarpet my bedroom,” or “I’ll watch it once I’ve done every possible other thing in life that I could ever want to do,” or “I’ll watch it once I stop lying.”

I should pause at this point to mention that there’s little in this life I detest more than small-minded, pretentious idiots willing to disdian something simply for being popular.  Also, I kind of am one.

Anyway, as aggravating as I’m sure my stodginess must be to those tirelessly attempting to get me to watch/play/eat/rub up against the object in question, far more pitiable are those poor souls whose nagging bears fruit; who finally manage to drag my moaning blubber heap into whatever new experience they’re convinced I’ll love, only to curse the day they ever intruded upon my hermitage, upon discovery of how horribly right they were.

See, I have this annoying tendency — well, several of them, but this one in particular — to begrudgingly acquiesce to a recommendation, and then end up turning around and loving the film or whatever ten times more than the person who did the recommending.  Such that my obnoxious, overpowering newfound obsess-glee causes said person to come to hate whatever they recommended to me, and me, and themselves, and possibly the entirety of existence.

Case in this point: Hard Boiled.

My pal Miles recommended the same to me some ten years back.  I believe his exact words were, “Hey Kaleb, I think you might like this movie.”

It italicized “like” there, so that you could clearly see that it wasn’t “wish there were some way you could have sex with”.

Anyway, my reponse was probably something like, “Mumble grumble fine”, which, roughly two hours later, magically transformed into, “You are indeed correct, Miles!  This is the greatest movie ever made!”

“But I never said…”

“Do you mind if I grab you by the skull and yell in your face about it?”

“I don’t think…”


See, Heather?  I’m deliberately intractable for your protection.

So, in case anyone’s still wondering at this point, this is a positive review.  Hard Boiled is, simply put, my Princess Bride of action movies.

Now, having said that, I must present the following caveat: As both a reviewer and a generally immature person, it’s tempting for me to demonize anyone who doesn’t like what I like; to assume that their disagreement must be the result of some inherent flaw on their part.

But I shant bring that silliness into this house.  No, disliking Hard Boiled does not make you a douchebag; however, I might submit that if you are already a douchebag going in, you probably aren’t going to like it, as there are a host of petty little flaws to pick apart.  There are assorted editing errors here and there, the weapons are absurdly overpowered (the shotguns are particularly hilarious), the English dub is… pretty sad (still prefer it, though), and most of the extras couldn’t take a convincing crap.

However, if missing the point entirely isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll be treated to some interesting characters, just enough of a story to tie the violence together (largely irrelevant, but solid; it isn’t mindless action, it just doesn’t have any more of a mind than it absolutely has to), and gunfights that are, in defiance of my oath never to use the phrase “visual feast”, a visual feast.


Justin’s Rating: Don’t they deduct points for shooting civilians nowadays?

Justin’s Review: I began watching this John Woo man love-fest by hitting “play” on the DVD player, which was somewhat of a mistake. Seeing as how my Cantonese is a bit rusty and everyone was growling it pretty quickly, I felt lost within a minute or so. But hey, there was nice music. Sort of soothing jazz, the type that you might associate with “elevator awkwardness” or “root canals”.

Then I figured out I could switch the audio selection to a language I was somewhat more familiar with, such as “English”, and my job as a reviewer got easier. I even had the option (or “gumption”) to turn on English subtitles as well, ensuring that my skills as a reader were well above an eighth-grade level.

Hard Boiled is the sort of movie that hurts tourism efforts in China and Hong Kong. Sure, they’ve got nice tea houses and hermaphroditic hookers on every street corner, but what’s the point in going when you just know that at any second, everyone’s gonna whip out guns and run around willy-nilly shooting up the place? If I wanted that, I could visit L.A., thank you very much.

This is also the type of movie where the general thought is, “Why have one gun when I could be running around with two?” Everyone’s a deadly shot, even while sliding down the rails of a stairway, and nobody runs out of ammo, seeing as how they’re watched over by the Guardian Angels of Prop Management.

Sure, there’s a lot of largely unnecessary talking and plot exposition between gunfights, but unless you’re really starving for clarinet music and meaningful looks between two grown men, it’s a good excuse to test your “next chapter” function on the DVD.

Hard Boiled has some sort of cop-out-for-revenge story, while protecting the lady and pretending that he doesn’t get a little jolt of giddy pleasure when the blood sprays in beautiful slow motion. Our hero, Tequila Shooters, is played by Chew Your-Fat. He’s a cocky little bugger who’s not really happy unless he’s playing Max Payne or Grand Theft Auto 3 and getting all the innocents in a four block radius slaughtered through police inadequacy. More bystanders are slaughtered in this flick than practically any other action movie ever made (I’m serious), and it’s slightly entertaining watching them all but throw themselves in the path of the bullets.

The gun battles are stunning in the chaos of blazing pistols, shredded scenery and everyone jumping over and under everything, all very excited to be in a John Woo film. It’s so manly that as a guy, I had to rip off my shirt in the middle of this film and growl for the rest of the day, chewing on uncooked red meat. When the pizza delivery guy came to the door, I did a jumping-roll, sliding over my kitchen table to throw my tip ($0.43) in slow motion, distracting the guy while I went for his kneecaps. After the e. coli poisoning, pneumonia and bruises passed, this whole movie-watching experience become a great tale to pass on to future generations.

The climax of the film, a massive drawn-out battle inside a hospital held hostage, is something akin to the authorities throwing wide open the doors to the Psychiatric Asylum of the Action Movie Directors. It’s Die Hard with dozens of bad guys, hundreds of panicking civilians, a handful of babies (holding tiny, tiny pistols), and two cops out for some Saturday evening entertainment. You’ll rarely find gunfights as intense or creative as what you’ll find here, which makes this a must see for anyone with the rogue Y chromosome.

I think he may pull through!

I think he may pull through!


  • Golden Princess Film Production?  Sounds manly!
  • I like how Pang goes ahead and checks the pulse of the guy with twenty bullet holes in him.
  • Despite almost always being some form of jazz, the soundtrack doesn’t suck.  Yeah, I know!
  • Tony Leung actually does a pretty good job of keeping up with Chow, coolness-wise.  Good job, Tony!
  • I hate to come off like crotchety Old Man Johnson, waving my cane at the damn neighborhood kids on my lawn, but I get the feeling that anyone much younger than me probably won’t get much or as much out of HB.  What with the CG-free old-schooledness of it, and all.
  • Oh crap!  I forgot to give a detailed plot summary!  Okay… Johnny Wong, a naughty arms dealer, needs to die.  Which is really convenient, because Tequila also needs to kill him.  There you go.
  • Mr. Woo seemed to have quite the fondness for the freeze n’ fade scene transition at this point in his career.  Which is great, because sometimes I’m like, “I want to watch an action film, but I’d also like to watch a Pet Shop Boys video.  What to do?”  Now there’s no need to decide!
  • Stranglehold, the official videogame sequel to Hard Boiled, was released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2007, and is itself getting the film treatment.
  • Jazz. The perfect way to open an action flick.
  • Is that guy’s name really “Tequila”?
  • So people bring their birds to go drink tea?
  • Tequila keeps his toothpick in his mouth for the whole tea house shootout… heh
  • Shakespeare… so deadly.
  • Ooh! Origami! I can do that!
  • Do they HAVE to evacuate an entire hospital for every fire alarm?
  • During a giant hostage crisis and gunfight might NOT be the BEST time for a deep discussion on future “dreams” by your heroes
  • I love it when Tequila slides out of a morgue tray, guns a-blazin’!
  • Using the shotgun in the rose box was an original idea in both Hard Boiled and Terminator 2. It is a coincidence that they both came up with it at the same time.
  • Bodycount: 230. The budget of this movie was only about $4,000,000. Because of the shooting schedule, the crew only had one chance to perform the continuous take during the gun-battle in the hospital. Most of the script was radically rewritten a week before shooting began. The original plot involved a man poisoning bottles of baby formula (hence the hospital locales in the entire 2nd half), but director John Woo found the idea repugnant and decided to jettison it. Has more on screen deaths than any other film.

Groovy Quotes

Benny: I’m a true Hong Konger; I’ll live and die in this dump.  I don’t want to go anywhere else.  How could I get a fantastic breakfast like this?
Tequila: At a Chinese restaurant, anywhere.

Chief: Give the guy a gun, and he’s superman; Give him two, and he’s God!

Tequila: You know, you’re really just full of s__t.  There’s the john.

Tequila: Could we ever be friends?
Alan: You’ve got the gun; You could tell me to go out and milk a cow and I’d do it.
Tequila: I’m sorry… don’t like milk.

Alan: You know, I’ve always hated making cranes.  I make one each time I kill somebody.  So how about it; Shall I make you one?

Johhny: I’ve got more hostages than you’ve had hot dinners.

Alan: Motherf__cker!
Tequila: Great idea, throw a tantrum; always opens doors.

Tequila: (to baby) Last little sprout, I’ve really got no doubt, we’ll get safely out.

Tequila: (covers baby’s eyes after messily killing a dude) Hey!  X-rated action!

Johnny: Slap yourself.
Tequila: (does)
Johnny: Now your left cheek; Jesus said.

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • The Replacement Killers
  • A Better Tomorrow
  • A juicy badass sirloin, drenched in awesome sauce.


  1. If you ever do get around to watching Cowboy Bebop, I would strongly advise not watching the last two episodes (especially if you find that the Spike/Vicious/Julia angle doesn’t work for you). I thought Hard Luck Woman worked just fine as a conclusion episode and the two-parter The Real Folk Blues was a pointless add-on.

  2. It’s hard to review this now, because Woo-style gunplay has become a bad cliche. The dual wielding, slow mo, flight of doves releasing, diving bullet fight. It doesn’t help that his quality has gone way downhill since he hit America: Broken Arrow and Mission Impossible to me showed that he can’t translate what made Hard Boiled so awesome to other genres.

    It is awesome though. This film is why Woo was cool in the first place. Gun fights in movies were really stilted and boring, and he injected flamboyance back into them. Helping it was Chow Yun Fat.

    As for cowboy bebop, it’s great but don’t overhype it: it works because its low-key. It’s probably the worst one to hype because of that.

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