John Woo is an undeniable master of the action movie. Unquestionably, the man has made some lesser works, but there was a period of his career in Hong Kong where turned out one mind-blowing movie after another. Arriving at the end of that time is the epic crime movie, Hard-Boiled.
This movie represents yet another collaboration between Woo and Chow Yun-Fat (they had previously worked together on the A Better Tomorrow trilogy among other places), and it has everything one would expect from a collaboration between them. The story follows Inspector Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat) as a cop on the edge as he and an undercover cop, Alan (Tony Leung), who is posing as a member of the triad, go after organized crime in Hong Kong.
It is true that this plot sounds neither new nor underused, but in the hands of John Woo, the film is a sight to behold. Woo's talent lies not with the telling of the story, but in his choreography of action sequences, and Hard-Boiled boasts some of the best around.
The film starts with a huge gunfight in a teahouse, where a member of the Triad end up killing Yuen's friend. While Yuen takes out the murderer, he becomes hell-bent on destroying the criminal bosses that employed the murderer. While loyalties and allegiances switch throughout the film, Yuen shows himself willing to defy anyone and everyone that might get in his way.
On the flip side, Leung, in his role as undercover cop, begins to lose his way. He suffers grave moments of doubt, and wonders whether he is going to end up on the right side of the law in the end. While the movie does not really doubt the character and where he will end up, Leung is more than convincing in the role.
The film is pretty short on speaking parts for women. The one notable role is that of Teresa Chang, played by Teresa Mo. She is Yueng's boss and girlfriend, and does play an important role in one of the climactic scenes. Even so, while she may be good in the role, it is neither particularly demanding, nor is Teresa a particularly strong character.