Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hard Boiled: Grade B

Hard Boiled, 2-disk Reissue Edition (2007)
Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung; Director John Woo (Chinese, Subtitled)

This 1992 Classic still looks good. It defined the hard boiled, trigger-happy, blood-soaked cop genre that has been copied so many times since (most recently in Shoot ’Em Up, with Clive Own and Paul Giamatti, which shamelessly steals even specific choreographic moves). All the Die-Hard movies are derived from this one, as are many others. The acting is good, the story is just strong enough to support its own weight, photography is excellent, music outstanding, and the gunfights are beautifully choreographed.

Alas, the endless gunplay becomes tedious because we have seen it all so many times before, and the story is really only a loosely knit set of scenes. There is some high drama when Leung, an undercover Hong Kong cop, must betray his adopted Triad gang to win the trust of the evil, gun-running gang he needs to penetrate. But that tense scene lasts only a few minutes when yet another gun battle breaks out. There are gunfights in restaurants, on boats, in hospitals, in the street, in warehouses, you name it. In this genre, there is no problem hitting your target with a handgun while leaping through the air. A car door will protect you from a 9 mm bullet. Actually, even a cigarette lighter will, in this movie. Bad guys with fully automatic weapons spraying like garden hoses cannot wound the hero from 3 feet away as he leaps and rolls to safety behind a section of sturdy wallboard. The movie wants to cling to realism, but just can’t, so ends up being slightly ridiculous, unlike its American imitators that go completely over the top into comic surrealism. That’s only to say that the genre has moved on since 1992, and our expectations are different now. But this original still stands on its own. The extended extras, interviews with John Woo, and so forth, don’t really add much value. It’s just a reissue of a good, classic action movie.

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