ONE MORE BULLET WON'T KILL YOU  |  ACTION FILM BLOG

 

Hard Boiled Review

May 8, 2011

Now I’m not only recovering from screenings, but recovering from Canadian elections too. I don’t want to use this blog to push any politics so let’s talk a film that elicited genuine gasps and shock from the audience when it was shown at the Mayfair theatre in Ottawa: Hard Boiled!

On paper, the production of Hard Boiled is kind of a mess. Some scenes such as the the tea-house fight were shot when there was no shooting script. When the film’s screenplay was written by Barry Wong, Wong sadly died while on vacation leaving it unfinished. Plot points that were originally in the script such as a baby-poisoning psychopath are mostly lost in the mix with elements stirred in towards the end during the heroic and slightly hilarious baby-rescue. Other re-writes involve Michelle Yeoh who was originally going to have been cast in Teresa Mo’s role. I’m not sure why this was changed, but Mo’s character was greatly re-written after Michelle was unable to be in the film. I assume somewhere in Hong Kong there is a huge cabinet full of nothing but screenplay drafts for Hard Boiled.

Here’s where I’m a bit confused. All credits and books I’ve read relating to the film say that John Woo completed the script himself, but an interview on the Hong Kong Cinemagic website with director and writer Gordon Chan suggest that he helped finishing the draft of Hard Boiled after Wong died. Gordon Chan even goes on to explain little bits of his draft that are in the film such as the warehouse scene. If this is the case, how come his name does not appear in the credits? I’ve read most books relating to Woo and have heard two audio commentaries on the film and I never heard Gordon mentioned once. So what gives?

Despite production troubles and my own historical confusion, Hard Boiled is a film that can maintain quality while not just being over the top in terms of action sequences but in basic plot elements which range from implausible to silly. Let’s look at some enjoyable nonsense we have here:

Hard Boiled Hospital
Hospitals have secret underground weapons bunkers
with Scrooge McDuck-esque sliding doors.

Hard Boiled Song

Coded messages being delivered through Lionel Richie lyrics
(and sung by Chow-Yun Fat and Teresa Mo!)


Weapons are hidden in Shakespeare and bird cages!

I’m just scratching the surface with that kind of pulp! To match them, we have the equally over the top action scenes which I consider to be some of the best filmed. When mentioning action scenes like “the teahouse scene” or “the hospital scene” to anyone who has seen Hard Boiled, they know what you are talking about without hesitation. This level of action also separates some audiences as some find it goes too far, while others rejoice in the glorious chaos. Personally, I like this film quite a bit, but I do see it in a slightly lesser light than Woo’s other major Hong Kong films, such as The Killer, A Better Tomorrow and Bullet in the Head. I do like it more than A Better Tomorrow II and Once a Theif. As for going too far, I think it doesn’t go as overboard as Kurt Wimmer’s Ultraviolet so it suits me just fine.

Even though I do love action cinema, I’m a firm believer that if you are not going along with either the plot or characters, than you can have gorgeous action scenes that will not impress if you don’t care about the characters or what they are doing. Woo has compared the film to Dirty Harry with it’s tough police detective who makes vigilante justice seem appealing and Die Hard. I agree, especially with Die Hard for having really riveting action scenes in an isolated area all while giving quality actors some roles which are a bit thin on character and interest. To further the comparison in Die Hard, there are two actors with a lot of charisma (Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman) while in Hard Boiled we have some of the best actors to have graced Hong Kong screens, namely Chow Yun-Fat, Anthony Wong and Tony Leung (the real Tony Leung, not the fake one). Their performances (especially Chow’s and Tony’s) I think give enough depth to their characters to make them rise above the slightly messy plot. Tony and Chow seem to be having a blast, but not everyone had the fun working with Woo on the film. This was Anthony Wong’s only film with John Woo and he was not to happy on set. Wong felt the film was too comic-book like and didn’t like how Woo treated his actors. This is interesting, as everyone in America who’s worked with Woo had said that he is very polite and kind on the set while in Hong Kong, Woo is sometimes referred to as “the black faced God” being dead serious while working. I wonder how everyone felt about him during the production of Red Cliff?

On watching the film at the Mayfair theater, the audience was really taken by it. I don’t remember hearing so many loud gasps come from the audience since watching the joker do his pencil trick years back. I think this goes to show the quality of the film despite any plot’s short-comings: it still is exciting, keeps the audience hooked and is still talked about today. It set some pretty high standards for the action scenes in an action film so despite it’s flaws, I think Hard Boiled could easily creep in to a list of the top action films of the 1990s.

Sources: [1] [2]

Share

True Legend Trailer and Poster

April 3, 2011

Remember a few weeks back I blogged about three hong kong films having a North American release this year? I was a bit disappointed about how little there was promoting True Legend‘s release. It seems my internet whining has payed off as we now have a poster and a trailer for this film. Rejoice! Let’s have a comparison between how China and America handles the poster.

American Poster Chinese Poster True Legend

It’s fun just to compare these posters for the tone they seem to be going for. The hot orange in the background on the American poster gives me cartoonish vibes while the Chinese poster seems like this could be a dead-serious costume drama. One recent new rule I’ve found is when American companies try to sell an Asian action film in a poster, they must include a dragon stamped somewhere. Not that I’m complaining as it’s better than when they include the song “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas in the film somehow. *shudder*

The focus on individual characters is different too as my first glance at the bald-headed central figure (Andy On) gave me zombie vibes. Then again, the last time he worked with Yuen-Woo Ping was on Black Mask 2 and had a goofy get up then. The two apparently did not get along on the set so I suppose this is their hatred for each other visualized. Pretty gruesome.

We must be long past the days of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as there’s no predominant mention of Michelle Yeoh’s role (image or large text) wise. Remember ages ago when it was difficult not to find some blurb about her being a Bond girl? Sometimes those quotes were bigger than the film’s title. Times have changed! I guess Michelle being around 48 years old also doesn’t help your case. But i’m still excited about seeing her.

On a final poster note, True Legend was shown in China in 3D…sort of anyways as parts of the film were shot in 3D. I’d love to see “Put Your 3D Glasses On Now” printed in Mandarin on the screen but I can’t find any information about it being shown in 3D on the poster or anywhere else online for it’s American release. I’d say it’s safe to assume we are getting it how most film fans would want to see it, in traditional 2D.

The trailer can be viewed here. We get one lovely line spoken by the late David Carradine explaining how I suppose we really feels about Chinese people “Break their necks!”. Typical nonsense and kind of awkward but it’s not like this is the only film that has been marketed this way. The trailer is a bit too empty for me as it doesn’t really suggest how it will stand out from other martial art epics we’ve seen. The inclusion of a scene involving a vein growing on some muscular skin looks a bit more video gamey than probably intended. On a positive note, it does include this final goofy clip of Gordon Liu.

Gordon Liu in True Legend
I’m sold on this film now

For our UK friends, it seems that True Legend has already has it’s premiere in September. Has anyone there seen it? Thoughts?

Share