Art History

“Hard Boiled” and Its Vitality in the History of Action Cinema – Q30 Television | Pro Club Bd

Decades: The 2’s is a series of articles covering one year in each decade through 2022. From 1952 to 2012, I plan to write about a single film that must once again return to the cinematic discussion in honor of its overall quality and craftsmanship. These films may not be the defining film of the year, but one that should be honored with just as much respect.

The Hong Kong cinema world is probably my favorite place to go when I’m in the mood for a foreign film. I love all the art, history, culture and beautiful landscapes on display here. But I have to admit, it’s mostly because of the action. Since they started cooking action movies there, they changed the game for the whole world in this genre. Jackie Chan pioneered action comedy and Bruce Lee popularized kung fu. We have groundbreaking wuxia films like Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (a personal All-Timuh) and Zhang Yimous hero who put the “art” in “martial arts”.. But wuxia and martial arts comedies like this weren’t the only genre Hong Kong invented. There is another genre that dominates action movies that we see in America today. It’s called “Gun Fu” and was invented by John Woo in 1986 A better tomorrow But it was perfected, popularized, and brought to the US in his 1992 masterpiece. Hard boiled.

Hard boiled follows Inspector “Tequila” Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat), a two-gun cop who drinks heavily, plays the clarinet, and loves jazz with an attitude and penchant for breaking the rules. When his partner is killed in a shootout with smugglers, he embarks on a mission to bring them down by any means necessary. Aided by undercover cop/killer Alan (Tony Leung), there’s nothing standing in their way, not even an entire army of triad thugs they’ll soon face.

Right off the bat, let’s talk about the most outlandish cop conspiracy you’ve ever heard of. A buddy cop movie? With one who’s a rule-breaking cop, but he’s still the best cop on the force? I mean, I can hear the “I want your badge and your gun on my desk” speech from here. We’ve seen it all before. What really sets this film apart is the execution. It’s all about “Gun Fu”.

If you haven’t figured it out already, Gun Fu is literally a combination of using weapons either as a choreographed action (hard boiled) or use half shots and half kung fu (John Wick). For reference, Gun Fu is also known as “Bullet Ballet”. The genre has some central tenets. One is the combination of hand-to-hand combat and firearms and/or choreographed gunfights mentioned above. You’ll often find little realism in the action, oil drums will explode on impact, and there will be little to no reloading. Furthermore, much, much collateral damage, not like collateral damage to innocent lives but more like any building where a fight begins, is reduced to rubble at the end.

Hard boiled is no exception to all of these things, but in the best possible way. There’s not a lot of melee combat, just choreographed environmental destruction in a fun way. Tequila runs into additional cover with squibs and flares mimicking gunfire that shakes the surrounding area while his previous cover is blown to bits by some sort of explosive. Hard boiled makes it all so much fun with the addition of tequila doing ridiculous things like stomping tequila and then going on stage at a Hong Kong jazz bar and playing the clarinet for the first few seconds.

I also have to mention the three key characters in the film, John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung. Purely American, these three aren’t big names for you, but you just couldn’t get any taller than them in Hong Kong.

John Woo was a key figure in Hong Kong filmmaking in the late 1980s and beyond Difficult Cooked Unexpected success and critical love in the West, he made his way across the Pacific to Hollywood. There he made action classics of the 90s Mission Impossible 2 Broken Arrow Hard Aim and Face/Off.

Chow Yun-Fat is by far the least known of the three in the US, but trust me when I say he’s an action legend in his home region. He is Captain Sao Feng Pirates of the Caribbean and he stars alongside Michelle Yeoh in Crouching tiger, hidden dragon.

Tony Leung Chu-Wai is the exception. He is by far the most prolific Hong Kong actor in history even before his turn as the villainous Wenwu Shang Chi. Before that, he’s starred in both Wong Kar-wai dramas, scooping awards every time the two legends show up in Cannes, and has a fair amount of martial arts skills to show off in action films. He’s one of the most recognizable faces in Asia and most of his career started with this film.

Hard boiled is a well-known classic for action fans and cinephiles, but there is a problem accessing this movie. You cannot legally purchase this film anywhere. Not on any streaming service, not available to rent, not physically available to buy, nothing. Now the good folks at Criterion are coming and giving him a remastered Blu-ray. But they did that years ago and for some legal reason they no longer stock it. I assume the legality of the film prevents them from reselling them, but that’s still a huge loss to the art form and history of this medium we call cinema. This film deserves more than that on its 30th anniversary.

The Matrix, John Wick, Tomb Raider, Kick-Ass, Kingsman, Equilibrium and Searched. All insanely popular franchises and films without which it really would never have existed John Woos visionary direction of action for the film called: Hard boiled

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