John Woo – Laat sau sen taan aka Hard-Boiled (1992)

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It is almost impossible to review Hard Boiled and at the same time avoid the bottomless anus-bowl of cliches that surround it. I’m sure it’s been described as “a high octane thrill ride”, and even on the box it says Hard Boiled is “an action fan’s dream”. This is all true, but plain and simple it is just a damn awesome movie. I am at a loss for bad things to say about it. Not many movies get me as pumped up as Hard Boiled does. It uses an arsenal of well executed techniques to draw the viewer into each and every action sequence. Woo also manages to craft these explosive scenes so that he actually makes you feel stupid if you miss something cool. There are many small and beautiful things going on during all of the crimson waterworks that you may not notice the first time through. One image that really stuck out to me was during the first action scene in the teahouse. There is a shot of someone getting blasted in the leg. The bullet goes through a table first, so you get this foreground picture of the table’s leg busting in two as the man’s leg snaps right behind it. It is really fantastic in that it was totally unnecessary.

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Speaking of cool, Chow Yun-Fat is just a straight up shaolin playa. He was made for the “bullet ballet”. Hand-crafted by the movie gods and then issued out to John Woo. Surprisingly, he pulls off all the right moves and then turns out to be a great actor as well. This is why all of the scenes between shoot-outs aren’t dull. I actually cared about Tequila and whether he survived. I even cared a little about his relationship with his girlfriend, and that wasn’t even played on that much. Every scene is a necessary piece to the film. Unlike most movies, I didn’t really feel like there was any filler.

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Style is, of course the essence of a John Woo film, and I personally think that this is close to, if not his best. It’s certainly my favorite. Even the opening of the movie which simply shows a drink being mixed in a smoky jazz bar, has such a finesse to it, that you are immediately sucked into the world. In a way, this start to the film is almost dreamlike. You see Tequila performing jazz, and it seems like an unconventional introduction. Whereas most movies would like to introduce you to the character in a way that shows you he is a police officer (or whatever else the occupation may be), Woo opens the film showing Tequila as a human being with an interest aside from work and killing. I just thought this strayed away from the norm and was very refreshing. I say if new film-makers wanna copy John Woo’s style, they should try and focus on the more subtle aspects, instead of leading people to believe his only influence is jumping sideways in slow motion.

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Language(s):Cantonese
Subtitles:French, english, spanish srt subs

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