Continuing Woo's examination into the workings of the Hong Kong criminal underworld, the divide between the lawful & the lawless, the bond between brothers in arms & the psyche of the anti-hero. While less cohesive & less satisfying than its predecessors, A Better Tomorrow & The Killer, Hard Boiled pushes the Woo aesthetic to breaking point; creating a film that redefines the possibilities of the modern action movie.
Far-fetched and yet exciting and tense. For all its plethoric blood spilling, cheesy one-liners and balletic gunfights this must be the quintessential hong kong action flick. A master class of choreography.
Whenever I watch a John Woo movie I get the feeling that it could turn into a cigarette ad at any moment, and yet that quality is what makes him so awesome. Nothing like over the top melodramatic balls to the wall action. Is there any set piece more manly and exciting than the hospital shoot out? Woo's movies expose Michael Bay for the fraud he is. This is real testosterone driven action.
I've probably never seen an action movie like this before. Every action scene is so beautifully choreographed that it's almost a ballet. It's chaos filmmaking at its most powerful and efficient. Though some small plot holes, the use of the human body in this film, in every shot, makes the difference between an average action flick and this kind of symphony of violence, broken glass, fire, blood and explosions.
It's been five years since "Hard Boiled" sparked my infatuation with the films of John Woo and the heroic bloodshed genre, and having watched it well over a hundred times since then, it still always feels like I'm seeing it for the first time. Here is an elegant film about style, balletic action, wordplay, and raw, powerful performances, with a well-played undercover drama at the center. The best of all action films.
Makes a fascinating pair with The Killer: that film is more elegant, while this embraces chaos; that film features a more stoic performance from Chow than the charismatic one here; and yet they both come bubbling to life not only when the bullets fly, but when a homosocial bond of respect and sympathy develops. Woo directs like the film's jazz music, using slow-mo, double exposures and still frames based on raw feel.