Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 25th, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1992
Director: John Woo
Writer: Barry Wong
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Anthony Wong, Teresa Mo, Philip Kwok, Philip Chan, Kwan Hoi-shan, Bowie Lam, Tony Leung
DVD released: July 24th, 2007
Approximate running time: 128 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Stereo Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
DVD Release: Dragon Dynasty
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: Synopsis: Inspector Yuen “Tequila” (Chow Yun Fat) will do anything even break the law to catch Johnny Wong (Anthony Wong) the man responsible for his partners death. During a raid Inspector Yuen befriends one of Johnny Wong’s men Tony (Tony Leung) who also just happens to be an undercover cop. Inspector Yuen and Tony decide that working together they can get more accomplished as they track down the evidence that will finally bring Johnny Wong down.
If you are fan of action cinema. Then chances are that you have seen John Woo’s tour de force swan song from Hong Kong cinema. Before he would leave for greener pastures and fade away into relative obscurity in the Hollywood machine. The west had been trying to lure John Woo as far back as 1989 after making his masterpiece The Killer a film which not only delivers on counts action wise it also proves that action films can also be about much deeper and personal subject matters like loyalty, friendship and betrayal. The Killer is a tough act top follow and while Hard Boiled may not achieve that same emotional heights that The killer does. It somehow manages to top every Acton film made before it and since with its mind blowing actions sequences many of which defy logic and all of which are filled with poetic grace.
Cinema has produced through the years many great actor/director collaborations in which both participants achieve their greatest successes within said collaborations. John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat have teamed up five times A Better Tomorrow, A Better Tomorrow 2, Once a Thief, The Killer and Hard Boiled which sees the collaboration at its apex. The acting in Hard Boiled is flawless (listen to the Cantonese audio) as each performer takes on their perspective roles with bravado. Besides the excellent casting of Chow Yun-Fat another important part of why the film works so well is the casting of Tony Leung as Chow Yun-Fat’s sidekick and at times nemeses. Then there is the ever reliable Anthony Wong playing the lead villain named Johnny Wong. The rest of the supporting cast are all very good and add depth to the main characters.
Like many of the previous Woo/Yun-Fat collaborations humor is injected through out Hard Boiled with one of my favorite moments coming when Inspector Yuen played by Chow Yun-Fat is killing bad guys while holding a baby and he tells the child not to look because the action is X-Rated. There are many great action moments in the film most notably the tea house shooting at the beginning of the film. The shootouts are always bloody and often violent. Ultimately if you are a fan of action cinema then you are sure to be blown away by John Woo’s Hard Boiled.
Hard Boiled is John Woo’s most elusive and popular film that has not been treated that well in its various home video releases through the years. The latest incarnation of Hard Boiled on home video is Dragon Dynasty’s DVD release which claims boldly on the front cover to be the “Ultimate Edition”. The image at times looks tight and slightly stretched. Colors and flesh tones have never looked better. There is some mild print damage very early on and after that nothing that is noticeable or distracting. Overall will the image looks better then it has on previous releases there is still a lot of room for improvement. All the audio options sound clean and they offer a robust sound field that is dynamic in range.
The one era where this release lives up to its “Ultimate Edition” moniker is in the extras department where all the major cast & crew (except Chow Yun-Fat) offer their insight and memories of working on Hard Boiled. Extras for this release include a feature Length Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan, “A Baptism Of Fire” a featurette with director John Woo (38 minutes / in English no subtitles), “Partner In Crime” an interview with Producer Terence Chang (25 minutes / in English no subtitles), “Art Imitates Life” an interview with actor Philip Chan (16 minutes / in English no subtitles), “Mad Dog Bites Again” an interview with actor Kwok Choi (25 minutes / in Cantonese with English subtitles), “Hard Boiled Location Guide” (9 minutes), the Hong Kong theatrical trailer & US promotional trailer, trailers of other Dragon Dynasty releases and a preview for the video game “Stranglehold” (3 minutes). Even with a less then flawless transfer Dragon Dynasty’s Hard Boiled DVD is a strong enough release that most fans will be very happy with.