"An action fan's dream... takes viewers straight through the roof and out of this world" -- New York Daily News
"A blast 'em blow-out" -- San Francisco Chronicle
"Blows away most action films of recent memory" -- Hollywood Reporter
Winner of the 1993 Hong Kong Film Award for Best Editing
Manadrin title: Lashou Shentan (Ruthless Supercop or Hot-headed Supercop)
Golden Princess, 1992, 122 min.
Director: John Woo
Stars: Chow Yun-Fat ("Yuen/Tequila"), Tony Leung Chiu Wai ("Tony"), Anthony Wong ("Johnny Wong"), John Woo (cameo as jazz bar owner)
Producers: Linda Kuk and Terence Chang
Original story: John Woo
Screenplay: Barry Wong
Cinematographer: Wong Wing-Heng
Editors: John Woo, David Wu and Kai Kit-Wai
Available on video (widescreen/subtitled or full frame/dubbed) from Fox Lorber
Available on DVD from Criterion - a review can be found here
Check out a clip from Hard-Boiled (1.1 MB .mov file)
(Thanks to FilmZone for the clip)
"Give a man a gun and he thinks he's Superman. Give him two and he thinks he's God."
Inspector Yuen is a cop so hot-headed that his buddies call him "Tequila." When he goes overboard in his pursuit of arms dealer Johnny Wong, his boss pulls him off the case -- but Tequila isn't one to take "no" for an answer. He decides to take on Johnny by himself, unaware that Johnny's newest recruit, Tony, is actually an undercover cop. As Tequila and Tony both draw closer to getting rid of Wong, they must put aside their differences and join forces before Johnny massacres a hospital full of innocent patients.
While many have criticised Hard-Boiled for being too "Hollywood," it nonetheless remains an amazing film. Even though the story doesn't have the depth of something like The Killer, the story _is_ better than most action films and top-notch performances from Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung help place Hard-Boiled a step above most other action films. And speaking of action, the film's gunfight sequences are breath-taking. The first gunfight (which occurs about five minutes into the movie) is better than many finales, and the final showdown in a hospital (which lasts for over a half an hour) is probably the best gunfight ever filmed.
- Over 100,000 rounds of ammunition were fired during the filming of Hard-Boiled.
- Around 300 people get killed (80 shown directly) in the course of the film, giving it one of the highest body counts of any movie ever made. The closest US movie would be Die Hard 2: Die Harder, where 230 people are killed.
- John Woo wanted to use an opening similar to Hard-Boiled (jazz playing over shots of Hong Kong) for A Better Tomorrow, but producer Tsui Hark shot down the idea, stating that Asians didn't "get" American jazz.
- The pier where Foxy gets his beat-down is the same where the botched undercover gun buy took place in The Killer.
- During the climax of the film, John Woo decided to take the controls for the explosions in the scene where Chow runs down a burning hallway. The director decided to keep it a secret from Chow, so his expressions during the scene were real. Chow was so frightened that he threw his guns down after the take and asked Woo "Are you happy now, you motherf***er?", but then asked "Did it look okay?"
- The character of Tequila (who has almost super-hero like powers) was created by Woo as a response to Asia's climbing crime rate, to give the people hope that heroes still exist. "In [the film], the lead characters are cops, so I am hoping that this will encourage kids to become policemen. Hong Kong criminals have gone too far now. We need the right guy to go up against them and this is Chow's character. It's called Hard-Boiled because that was a tough kind of detective novel. I try for a similar style in this film" [from Hong Kong Action Cinema © 1995 Overlook Press].
- Woo says this about the finale: "I was excited at the idea of setting part of the movie in a hospital. A hospital was a good microcosm of the society, with all those innocent and helpless people trapped inside. And, of course, it had some symbolism for what was soon to happen in 1997 [the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong]; people trapped in a place, hoping that they will survive, and maybe wishing for a savior. And Chow saves the baby, and I wanted the baby to stand for the idea that there was hope...for the future" [from Asian Pop Cinema © 1999 Chronicle Books].
- The production stopped for a month after the filming of the teahouse sequence due to script problems. Woo was having problems with Tony Leung's character; he wanted to show how far he felt HK society had fallen and thus orginally Leung's character was to be a psychotic villain based on a real-life psycho who poisoned baby formula. However, (even though Leung was willing to do the role) Chow Yun-Fat felt the role would be bad for Leung's career, and urged Woo to change the script. Woo agreed, and had his friend Barry Wong do a rewrite. Wong died before he could finish the script, so Woo had to complete the script during filming.
- Hard-Boiled's Cantonese title is a play on the Cantonese title for Dirty Harry. The ultra-undercover cops (like Tony) are similar to the "death squad" featured in the Dirty Harry movie Magnum Force. Woo described the movie to his producers as "Dirty Harry meets Die Hard".
- Local reviews for Hard-Boiled were mixed. Many fans and critics felt that Woo had become too "heavy" for the HK audience, which largely favored lighter fare such as Once Upon a Time in China 2 (which beat Hard-Boiled at the HK box office).
- The image of Tequila drinking at the beginning is similar to one near the end of Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, where a character drinks a bottle of tequila before the final battle. Woo named Chow's character "Tequila" as a homage to that film.
- Many of Tequila's mannerisms (such playing the clarinet) were taken from a real cop Woo interviewed for the film. Tequila's love of jazz is taken from Woo himself.
- The teahouse where the first sequence was filmed was demolished five days after Woo was done. During filming, the neighbors called the police every night to complain about the noise, but the cops were fans of Woo, so they allowed him to complete shooting every night.
- Like many of Woo's other films, elements of Hard-Boiled's action sequences were improvised, such as the famous "staircase slide" in the teahouse. Chow Yun-Fat came up with the idea of using flour in the climax of the teahouse shootout.
- Philip Chan ("Mr. Pang") was a cop before becoming an actor.
- The scene at the jazz bar after the teahouse shootout was added on the last day of shooting. Chow wanted to have a scene that showed his real-life friendship with Woo. The scene was scripted and shot in less than a hour.
- Orginally, Philip Kwok ("Mad Dog") was not supposed to have an acting role in the film, instead just working as the stunt co-ordinator. But Woo was a fan of Kwok's acting work from the 70's and he felt Johnny Wong had a "weak" image, so he wrote in the character of Mad Dog and offered Kwok the part.
- Orignally, Tony was not supposed to cry after killing Mr. Hui, but Tony Leung felt the character should show some sign of breaking down. Woo filmed the scene both ways and decided to keep the "crying take" in.
- The warehouse and hospital scenes were shot in an abandoned Coca-Cola factory. Savvy HK film fans may note that the film Heroic Trio uses some of the same hospital sets (at le4ast the parts that weren't destroyed) as Hard-Boiled.
- Woo was nicknamed "Old Headmaster" by the young crew because of his stern manner during filming.
- The shot where Tequila shoots out the pipe was inspired by Melville's The Red Circle.
- Most of the guns used in Hard-Boiled were real; they had to be imported from England and inspected by the HK police before they could be used.
- To save time during the filming of the hospital scenes, up to three crews were shooting at once.
- The maternity ward shootout was inspired by Fuller's Beethoven Street.
- The hospital shootout took 35 days to film, at 18-24 hours per day. Woo has said "It was like being in Hell."
- The "hallway shot" in the hospital was put in to break the monotony of filiming. It was set up in about a day and a half. The crew had to all sit in one little room and watch the action via a series of monitors strategically placed along the hallway. Steadicams had proven to be too heavy, so Woo had his cameramen use hand-held cameras. Woo wanted to do the shot all in one take, but money was running low, so (even though the crew offered to work for free) he had to splice two shots together.
- Tony Leung was almost blinded by flying glass during the hospital shootout.
- Hard-Boiled was not censored very much upon competion; only five or six small cuts were made, including one after the assassination in the library where a character goes "Oh! There's so much blood... it's just like a John Woo movie."
- As for the reasoning of having the baby urinate on Tequila to save him, Woo says that "Anytime I hold a baby, they always seem to pee on me."
- Orginally, Woo wanted to bring the entire hospital down during the finale. The crew became worried and asked producer Terence Chang to talk some sense into Woo. Woo agreed to use only 1/4th of the original explosives he requested.
- Chow Yun-Fat says this about the film in Hong Kong Action Cinema: "The film is seventy percent action, thirty percent story!" But this increase in action may have some base in reality. Chow goes on to say "In America, the policeman must shout 'stop' before he shoots you. Here [in Hong Kong], he can just shoot you any time, without warning! That comes across in the films."
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