Blu-Ray Review: ‘Hard Boiled’ Stands as Riveting Action Classic

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CHICAGO – John Woo changed my life. I was just the right age when I saw “The Killer” and “Hard Boiled” that they blew my mind. Wait, you mean not all foreign films look like Jean-Luc Godard? I was young enough that I thought foreign meant boring. There’s NOTHING boring about the prime of John Woo and one of his best, “Hard Boiled” has now been released on Blu-ray. And it still blows my mind. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

The action genre is too often the playground of the lazy. Too many directors think that if they just feature enough shoot-outs, car chases, and explosions then they will satisfy their genre requirements. Creativity too rarely plays a significant role. And it was even more of a problem in the late ’80s when the action genre was dominated by muscle-bound icons like Sly and Ah-nuld. While American action was in a rut, John Woo blasted open the doors as some of his films came stateside including “A Better Tomorrow” (1986), “The Killer” (1989), “Bullet in the Head” (1990), “Once a Thief” (1991), and the last film of this remarkable period — before John went Hollywood — “Hard Boiled” (1992). Around a decade later, Woo would be making junk like “Windtalkers” and “Paycheck” but when “Hard Boiled” came out he was still at the top of his craft.

Hard Boiled: Ultimate Edition wias released on Blu-ray on December 14th, 2010
Hard Boiled: Ultimate Edition wias released on Blu-ray on December 14th, 2010
Photo credit: Dragon Dynasty

There’s a gleeful energy to the film’s of Woo’s prime period that’s too often missing from all cinema, not just action. “Hard Boiled” is ludicrous. It features action scenes like a climax in a maternity ward of newborns that don’t just stretch the suspension of disbelief, they blast it with a shotgun. The great Chow Yun-fat (who also starred in “The Killer” and may be best-known to American audiences from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) stars along with the also-great Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (“In the Mood For Love”). The plot’s not important. In Woo’s films, the style becomes the substance.

Dragon Dynasty released an “Ultimate Edition” of “The Killer” back in March and so it makes sense that they would follow it up with that film’s “brother” (a whole generation of movie fans, including myself, saw them back-to-back because once you saw one you had to see the other) nine months later. John Woo was the HD action maestro to the standard-def hacks of the ’80s. In other words, “Hard Boiled” was made for Blu-ray.

Sadly, Dragon Dynasty is not exactly a trailblazer in the Blu-ray market. Both the video and audio transfers are merely average and the subtitles are not from the Criterion version but a translation of the widely-reviled dubbed version. And a commentary from the out-of-print Criterion version is also missing. So, great movie, okay Blu-ray.

Special Features:
o Feature Length Audio Commentary By Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
o A Baptism Of Fire: A Featurette With Iconic Director John Woo
o Partner In Crime: An Interview With Producer Terence Chang
o Art Imitates Life: An Interview With Co-Star Philip Chan
o Mad Dog Bites Again: An Interview With Leading Villain Kwok Choi
o Hard Boiled Location Guide
o Stranglehold Video Game Mini Making-Of
o Trailer Gallery: Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer & U.S. Promotional Trailer

“Hard Boiled: Ultimate Edition” stars Chow Yun-fat and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. It was written by Barry Wong and directed by John Woo. It was released by Dragon Dynasty on December 14th, 2010 and is rated R. It runs 129 minutes. content director Brian Tallerico

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