29 December 2000 | jhclues
"Mr. Action" Delivers Again
Master of Action John Woo delivers once again with his hard-hitting, action-packed thriller `Hard Boiled,' starring Chow Yun-Fat as a veteran cop known as `Tequila,' Hong Kong's answer to San Francisco's own `Dirty Harry.' In this one, an undercover officer infiltrates a gangland Triad dealing arms, and when a rival gang threatens to take over, Tequila joins in the melee, and once it begins the action never stops until the last of the credits have rolled off into the recesses of the darkened screen. Along the way there are tests of loyalty, mistaken identities and a staggering display of superbly choreographed violence. There's a couple of plot twists, but it's a rather straightforward story, and as usual, Woo melds it with the action with his trademark style and perfection. The action sequences are incredibly well staged and delivered, but so exceedingly violent that it passes beyond reality at times (especially during the climax) into a somewhat surreal state of being, only to be ultimately drawn back in again by the grounded core of the story. It's a fine line that Woo treads successfully time after time in an arena in which many other `action' directors have foundered. A consummate professional, Woo knows exactly what he wants and what works, and he doesn't quit until he gets it. Among the directors of the `action' genre, he is quite simply the best there has ever been. As the somewhat jaded and `hard Boiled' cop, the charismatic Chow Yun-Fat demonstrates that if Jackie Chan can team up with Chris Tucker, he most certainly could find a place at Eastwood or Gibson's side. He has the attitude and the look that make his character credible, which helps anchor Woo's art in reality, albeit a rather violent one. As with the `Dirty Harry' or `Lethal Weapon' movies, it gives the audience someone to whom they can relate and root for. And it's all buoyed with symbolism and metaphor and Woo's impeccable sense of timing and deft and sparing use of slow motion, which in his hands becomes an extremely effective tool. The supporting cast includes Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Alan),Teresa Mo (Teresa Chang), Philip Chan (Superintendent Pang), Hoi-Shan Kwan (Mr. Hui) and Philip Kwok (Mad Dog). The true brilliance of Woo's films lies in the fact that he never sacrifices story for action, but instead blends the two together to create a whole that is artistically rendered (his action sequences are something akin to visual poetry) and substantial, rather than having an action film that-- like so many others of the genre-- is hollow inside. Like his earlier film, `The Killer,' which also starred Yun-Fat, `Hard Boiled' pushes the envelope and will keep you on the edge, right along with the characters in the film, right until the very end. As with all of Woo's movies, this one is a satisfying foray into the intense, cutting edge `Action' world of one of Cinema's Master directors, and a must-see for any true film buff. I rate this one 9/10.