With a body count reaching over 200, a bullet count around 100,000, and an unimaginable amount of spilled blood, Hard Boiled is a cinematic action classic. It’s hardly surprising to see John Woo’s name attached with statistics like that, and 15 years later, his film has hardly lost a step. It’s not one for story, but it’s a rare film that doesn’t need deeply developed characters to work.
Chow Yun-Fat stars as Tequila, a hardened cop looking to bust an arms dealer. Working in tandem with an undercover agent played by Tony Leung, the film drifts from one area of Hong Kong to another, systematically destroying everything in the location before moving on. The story is standard fare, and more of an excuse to build up tension before the gunfights take over.
The action set pieces are unforgettable, designed to give these scenes a flair for destruction and massive violence. Fire, sparks, explosions, grenades, assault rifles, shotguns, motorcycles, boats, and an entire hospital are all key in these brilliantly directed sequences. The final battle, set inside the above-mentioned hospital, takes nearly a half hour of screen time before its explosive finale.
Gripping is the only way to describe every one of these fights, filled with as many bodies as possible. At times, it’s far too confusing to follow. Cops are dressed as their enemies, enemies are dressed as cops, those undercover dress as either side, and some dress as they wish. It chaotic, which is understandably the necessary tone at work.
Even in the midst of the fighting, there’s enough time to add a little extra to the characters. Chow Yun-Fat has a chance to show off his softer side before the final stunts are completed. It’s not deep, but enough for the script to show concern for their characters. It’s also enough to make Hard Boiled a definitive action epic.
This new Dragon Dynasty DVD crops the film slightly from 1.85:1 to around 1.66:1, though it’s thankfully anamorphic compared to prior releases. It’s also far cleaner, sharper, and the compression is under control. Grain varies dependent on the scene. Odd instances of yellow lines running through the print are noticeable early. It shows almost no damage otherwise, and the lines disappear past the first shootout.
With numerous audio mixes to choose from, it’s a shame none of them are particularly worthy of mention. While they are richer and cleaner than previous DVD editions, the sound never moves from the center channel. Bass is completely non-existent. Cantonese 5.1 and DTS sound equal, and the English dub doesn’t fare any better.
Extras are hardly packed, though the included interviews are worth watching. A commentary is available alongside the film from Bey Logan, a film expert. Disc two houses the rest, which are comprised of interview segments.
John Woo is first given nearly 40 minutes to discuss his reason for making the film, inspirations, style, and on-set stories. Terence Chang, producer, is next, given around a half hour to discuss his experiences. Actors Phillip Chan and Phillip Kwok are given around 15 minutes in their segments.
Hard Boiled Location Guide is a nine minute tour of the shooting locations today. Some are no longer there or changed drastically since the shoot as expected. Finally, a short making-of about the upcoming video game sequel Strangelhold runs three minutes.
To add to the monumental list of statistics, Hard Boiled used 200 different guns during filming. All of them were real, and imported due to gun laws in Hong Kong.