Violence as poetry, rendered by a master-brilliant and passionate, John Woo's Hard Boiled tells the story of jaded detective "Tequila" Yuen (played with controlled fury by Chow Yun-fat). Woo's dizzying odyssey through the ... more »world of Hong Kong Triads, undercover agents, and frenzied police raids culminates unforgettably in the breathless hospital sequence. More than a cops-and-bad-guys story, Hard Boiled continually startles with its originality and dark humor.« less
"There should be no doubt that HARD BOILED is a phenomenal action picture, one of the best ever produced in Hong Kong. Much has been written all over the internet about it in the years since it was released direct-to-video in North America in the very early 90's.
Now, some 16 years later, through any number of flawed prints, alternate edits, crummy dubs and subtitles of varying quality, not to mention several PREVIOUS special editions on DVD, each with their own pros and cons, the chance to do right by this film in so many ways is, typically, blown by the Weinstein machine and their cabal of Hong Kong cinema experts.
Oh, sure, this disc is watchable, and considering there is now a generation of teenagers out there who weren't even BORN when this was released, I'm sure there will be new fans made from watching this film. But the film ain't the problem for the rest of us.
Who in their right minds, in 2007, puts DUBTITLES on a "premium" special edition of possibly one of the most important Hong Kong motion pictures of all time. DUBTITLES based on a dub that was made, what, 16 years ago now? That dubbed version was indeed responsible for bringing a great many western fans into the fold, but that doesn't mean we liked it. Or any dubbing for that matter. Just because HARD BOILED is over half action sequences doesn't automatically mean the dialogue sequences are unworthy of even a moderately more accurate translation of WHAT THE CHARACTERS ARE ACTUALLY SAYING IN CANTONESE. Instead, they appear to have paid the receptionist a few bucks to type the original dub script verbatim into the subtitle stream.
Thankfully, far superior subtitles are still available on other, BETTER DVD releases of the film. Some of which even have an image where Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Chow Yun-fat DON'T look like they've put on about 50 pounds!! I'm no expert on aspect ratios and the like, but I know enough, and I've seen enough Chow and Leung movies to know that they don't quite look like this in real life. Gotta wonder who's bright idea it was to CROP the movie, then STRETCH it back to the proper aspect ratio. I can think of a few people who probably figured no one would notice, or if they did, that they'd just be the usual internet pedants.
If that's what I am, so be it, but for god's sake, you think a label that so eagerly wants to be viewed as the top shelf for Hong Kong and Asian movies, would actually start treating those very products with some REAL respect. But then again, look what they did with their "edit" of the Protector. Laughable. And to hear the commentator on that one JUSTIFY the cuts tells me where he really stands when it comes to his paymasters' wishes. This edition of HARD BOILED is another clue.
If I were just reviewing the film, I'd give it 5 stars. But since this is a DVD review, and I managed to find one at a store that broke street date, AND I'm now out about $18 bucks for something I now know I DIDN'T NEED TO UPGRADE, the best I can muster is (a generous) two stars, largely for the interviews on the second disc, which are not bad, and the location tour, which is not without interest.
The commentary on the other hand, while not a total write-off, obviously, offers SOME interesting tidbits that are tangentially related to the film itself, but to save a list of errors and 'best guesses' that would make your eyes glaze, just dig up a copy of the old Fox Lorber DVD from and listen to this film's CREATORS, John Woo and Terence Chang contradict Dragon Dynasty's commentator on several occasions. Or listen to the track on the Criterion edition of this title, where they do the same thing (though in fairness, the Fox Lorber track may have been a longer, uncut version of the Criterion one, only minus Roger Avery and Dave Kehr). John Woo and Terence Chang MADE the film, so who should you trust? A self-anointed expert? Sure, he means well enough, and he knows more than I do (which is why I'm a lowly peon who doesn't do commentaries ;) ), but a lot of the less film-specific stuff on this track feels awfully familiar...
Watch this disc for the movie (in Plump-o-Vision) and the interviews. Then do a little surfing to find one of the superior international versions if you really feel you need an "ultimate edition" in your collection, 'cause this ain't it."
Finally Released - Aspect Ratio Caution
Ben Buck | Jackson, MS | 07/24/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Hard Boiled is one of the best action movies ever and every John Woo film from the 1980s is golden. Hard Boiled has been released twice in the U.S. now, once from Fox Lobrar and once from Criterion, both are now out of print. (Of course there are numerous companies in Asia selling the film currently, thank goodness for Ebay!) I own both versions; the Criterion one has the best features but the picture is noticiably darker. This version of Hard Boiled from Dragon Dynasty/Wienstein Company has an amazing picture, stand out colors, well lit dark scenes, and excellent detail. If I was juding this film on color, brighteness, and overall picture, I would give it 5 stars.
However, there is one major flaw to the film somehow slipped through the cracks. The original film's aspect ratio is 1.85:1; wide screen tvs at home are 16:9, or 1.78:1 (Standard tvs are 4:3 or 1.33:1). Because 1.85 is wider than 1.78:1, you will have small black bars on the top and bottom of a widescreen tv, this is normal. For some reason, they decided to turn this movie into widscreen 16:9, and what this means is images on the sides as well as top and bottom are cut off slightly. Imagine looking at a photograph and then zooming in about 7 percent all around, essentially this is what has happened here. The film is still viewable, but artistic quality is compromised because the image is being cut off all around.
As for this release, the menus are good and the special features looked neat, I haven't had time to watch them yet.
Hopefully by releasing this movie many people will get to see the film for the first time. Just be aware that the movie is not in its original format and that the image is cut off slightly on the top, bottom, and sides."
Not the "Ultimate" but Awesome Nonetheless
Cubist | United States | 07/31/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those of you lucky enough to own the Criterion Collection edition of this movie, you might want to hold onto your copy as none of the extras from that edition are included on this one. That being said, the video and audio on this version easily surpass any previous Region 1 incarnations making this edition a must-have for fans of the movie.
The first disc features an audio commentary by Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan. He shows off his impressive knowledge of HK geography by pointing out which locations in the film don't exist anymore and their significance in the country's culture. Logan also dishes out interesting factoids, like the teahouse in the opening sequence was going to be demolished and this happened right after they filmed the last scene in the place! As with other commentary tracks that he has done his encyclopedic knowledge about the film and HK cinema in general is quite impressive, making for an informative track.
Disc two starts off with "A Baptism of Fire: A Featurette with Iconic Director John Woo." He was a big fan of Steve McQueen in Bullitt and Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry and with Hard Boiled; he wanted to create his own Dirty Harry. Woo wanted to make Chow Yun-Fat like Eastwood's iconic character but with the Asian actor's warm charisma.
"Partner in Crime: An Interview with Producer Terence Chang." He talks about how he met Woo in the late 1970s but that they didn't start working together until ten years later. Chang also talks about the genesis of the film which was originally a psycho who kills baby (?!). Fortunately, after they filmed the teahouse shoot-out, Chang convinced Woo to discard this idea.
"Art Imitates Life: An Interview with co-star Philip Chan," the actor who played Tequila's boss in the film. He was real policeman before getting into film and brought that authenticity to his role. He actually ran a team of undercover cops and speaks admiringly of working with Woo.
"Mad Dog Bites Again: An Interview with Leading Villain Kwok Choi." He talks about working with Woo on the film. Originally, he was hired to only design the action sequences but Chow Yun-Fat recommended him to play the villain's right-hand man.
"Hard Boiled Location Guide": takes us on a fun, fascinating tour of many of the locations from the movie. Some places, like the teahouse (which is now a mall), don't exist anymore and a little historical background is given to some of the places.
Also included are two trailers, the U.S. and Hong Kong versions.
Finally, there is "Stranglehold Video Game Mini-Making Of." This is the John Woo-approved sequel to Hard Boiled that allows you to play Tequila. This extra shows how deeply involved he was in the game's production with Chow Yun-Fat returning to provide the voice for his character!"
Complex, brilliant film with astonishing action set-pieces
Libretio | 01/21/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
HARD-BOILED [La Shou Shen Tan]
(Hong Kong - 1992)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 Theatrical soundtrack: Mono
John Woo's electrifying crime-thriller amounts to a great deal more than the sum of its action set-pieces. As with virtually all of his post-1986 HK films, Woo generates a tangible sense of melancholy by placing honorable, chivalrous - even lovable - characters into situations where all those precious moral virtues are constantly being challenged and devalued by the greed and cynicism of our modern age. And yet, Woo was eventually persuaded to conclude his picture on an optimistic note, with the villains routed and the good guys allowed to resume their places in the grand scheme of things. It's a daring move, given everything which precedes it, but no less effective than the all-out tragedy which Woo had originally envisaged. "
John Woo's "Hard Boiled" is easily one of his best.
Libretio | 11/10/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Audacious and red-blooded, hyperviolent and exciting, "Hard Boiled" is the tale of "Tequila" Yuen, a cop determined to take down murderous arm dealers led by Johnny Wong(Anthony Wong). But what "Tequila"(The excellent Chow-Yun Fat) doesn't know is that undercover cop Alan Tony(Tony Leung) is siding with the arm dealers to trap them as well. Hong Kong is about to become a war zone, and it's up to Tequila and Tony to save the city. Almost everything in this thriller is great. The cast is decent, but it's Fat who once again overwhelms everyone else, both physically and emotionally. Nevertheless, Leung is convincing as the cop stuck between good and bad, and stunt coordinator Phillip Kwok steals the show as a ruthless henchman. The action scenes are explosive; the best gunfights are set in a teahouse, a warehouse, and most unbelievable of all, a hospital! Director Woo has never been better with camera angles and pace. He gives true meaning to the word "thrill-seeker!" The movie's only true weakness lies in the script; you might want to watch the film again to understand some confusing plot points. Nevertheless, "Hard Boiled" is 5-star material. Once you see it, it may not be the same again. If you want to purchase the movie, buy the Criterion DVD or the Fox Lorber VHS version; other tapes contain edited sequences that may disappoint."