Review: HARD-BOILED 辣手神探 (1992) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: HARD-BOILED 辣手神探 (1992)

Review: HARD-BOILED 辣手神探 (1992)

Chow Yun-Fat is the no-nonsense Inspector Yuen who has a nickname called "Tequila" because he is just hot with guns. He's also the kind of righteous cop who doesn't mind breaking the law and make up his own justice as long as he thinks it's right. And that exactly turns out to be a  bloody mess when he and his partner (Bowie Lam) battle a gang of vicious gunrunners in a local teahouse bust. The shootout massacre resulted in his partner's death and Tequila wastes no time to empty his bullet to eliminate the bad guys. When his superior officer, Pang (Philip Chan) finds out about Tequila has already killed all the bad guys in the teahouse, especially one of them happened to be a key suspect, he is increasingly frustrated over Tequila's overly violent tactics on handling the job. Meanwhile, Tequila has attempted many ways to rekindle his shaky relationship with her fellow colleague, Madam Teresa (Teresa Mo), who has lately been receiving frequent gifts of white rose. Apparently, the flowers come with coded messages written in numerical form from an undercover gangland source that Teresa decipher and later passes on to Pang. The mysterious undercover happens to be a dedicated cop, Tony (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), who disguised himself as a triad assassin in which Tequila has been investigating the death of a man shot point-blank in a library. Tony is working for the criminal kingpin, Mr Hoi (Kwan Hoi-San) who has been making the serious rivalry with the heartless evil leader, Johnny (Anthony Wong) who admires Tony's working style and really wants him to join along. It doesn't take long before Tony's double identity is eventually seen more into trouble when Tequila interrupts his long-time investigation to eliminate Johnny and his gang. 


REVIEW: Widely praised by critics as John Woo's most commercially successful movie to date in Hong Kong, HARD-BOILED hits the jackpot as a rock-solid action picture ever seen in recent memory. 

Although the movie doesn't offer the similar dramatic impact that THE KILLER (1989) has, Woo manages to broaden his filmmaking horizon by showcasing some of the most exciting action set-pieces ever seen in the cinematic history. The opening balletic gunfight in the local teahouse alone is one blazing start to keep the action fans glued to their seats that it could have been an excellent portion for a climatic finale. 

But Woo keeps outdoing himself for the rest of the movie and the result is the movie's climatic finale -- a spectacular and breathtaking action set-piece in the hospital that lasts as long as 40 minutes. The action is frantic and truly stunning. In one particularly memorable scene, Woo utilises magnificent Steadicam shot as we follow Tequila and Tony going from one floor, into an elevator, and onto another floor and into another explosive gunfight. 

The acting, in the meantime, are similarly top-notch: Chow Yun-Fat, as usual, delivers a superbly vibrant performance as the trigger-happy cop who uphold the justice of his own; Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is perfectly typecast as the cool-mannered undercover cop, while Anthony Wong is frighteningly believable, if a bit over-the-top as the fearsome evil leader who doesn't hesitate to kill anyone who gets into his way of doing things. 

However, the plot is secondary and at times the dialogue is relatively cheesy, especially when Woo attempts to balance the movie's in-your-face action violence with comedy hijinks that seems quite out of place. 

But this is just minor missteps, considering HARD-BOILED has everything action fans come to dream for. Coupled with top-notch production values and a terrific jazzy score by Michael Gibbs and James Wong, HARD-BOILED is no doubt one of the defining Hong Kong action classics that it keeps better and better at each repeated viewings.

The plot may have been a garden-variety crime genre, but John Woo manages to pull out all the stops to deliver one of the most thrilling action movies ever made in Hong Kong cinema.

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