“Could we at any time be good friends?”
This is what Inspector “Tequila” Yuen (Chow Yun-unwanted fat) asks undercover lawman Alan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), mere minutes soon after wrestling a gun out of his hand in John Woo’s Hard Boiled, released 30 decades in the past in Hong Kong this thirty day period. (It did not strike the U.S. until finally a 12 months later, when it built its stateside debut at the Sundance Film Festival.)
Like most movies in Woo’s influential motion oeuvre, Difficult is about how even gun-toting badasses crave brotherhood. Acquiring an ally amidst the bloodshed and explosions is a frequent theme in Woo’s get the job done. His 1989 global breakthrough The Killer stars Chow as an assassin who joins forces with a law enforcement inspector (Danny Lee) when his back again is against the wall his 1986 groundbreaker A Superior Tomorrow (also co-starring Chow) is about literal brothers (Ti Lung, the late Leslie Cheung) on reverse sides of the legislation, in the end banding with each other to defeat a even bigger menace.
The closing Chinese-language film Woo designed in the 20th century in advance of heading Hollywood (where by he helmed these kinds of similarly bonkers actioners as Difficult Target, Damaged Arrow and the wonderful John Travolta/Nicolas Cage showdown Face/Off, which turns 25 this year), Tricky was the filmmaker’s intensely explosive farewell to Hong Kong cinema. It is a further tale of reverse characters forming a bond though bullets and bombs pop off. If Killer is regarded the coolest Woo movie (Hollywood when had sights on remaking it, with Richard Gere as the assassin and Denzel Washington as the cop) and Tomorrow is his most groundbreaking, then Really hard is the most definitive of Woo’s motion filmography. That ridiculous-ass filmmaker pulls out everything in his arsenal to give you just one hell of a experience. (He even exhibits up in a couple scenes as a clever ex-cop-turned-bartender.) As movie author Abby Olcese claimed when she and her colleagues talked about the film on the debut episode of Complete Massacre, “This is the film that you inform your mates about…and the particular person that you’re telling it to does not imagine you. And, then, you demonstrate them—and, then, they know.”
It goes like this: Following a shootout at a teahouse (the place men and women carry their pet birds in cages, apparently) leaves his partner useless, Chow’s rule-breaking, jazz-playing inspector goes on the warpath, likely immediately after any triad gangster who sheds law enforcement blood. Meanwhile, Leung’s deep-address cop finds himself switching underworld alliances, acquiring closer to a electrical power-mad kingpin (Anthony Wong) who forces him to betray a fatherly boss (Kwan Hoi-san), and trying not to get misplaced in the darkness of it all.
Hard sees Woo (who came up with the story along with screenwriter Barry Wong, who died of a coronary heart assault just before ending the script) as soon as once again delving into the oh-so-fragile problems of honor and id. And just like Killer and Tomorrow, it functions conflicted, antihero protagonists who endeavor to do what’s correct, even if it implies descending into a complete good deal of wrong. When Chow’s cop-on-the-edge (a character Chow would later revisit in a videogame) sequel Woo produced) shields his badge-carrying brethren by turning into a just one-man killing equipment, Leung’s tormented, undercover brother (a character at first made as a psychopath who poisoned toddlers) would relatively sail the earth on his boat alternatively of pumping just one much more dude full of guide. 1 look at Really hard and you will immediately see where by Martin Scorsese’s The Departed—and Infernal Affairs, the 2002 Hong Kong film it is primarily based on—picked up its pulpy, melodramatic concept of cops and criminals residing double life.
Even though Chow and Leung, two of the most charismatic matinee idols Hong Kong has ever created, are the two at their gun-blasting best, the true stars of the show are the motion sequences, which are really the design definition of managed chaos. We’re conversing explosions, bodies performing comprehensive, traveling 360s once they get shot at, debris and shit falling all more than the place—oh, it’s a stunning, balletic, blood-stained mess. If the teahouse shootout—complete with the legendary shot of Chow sliding down a banister firing two guns—doesn’t get you, there’s the warehouse scene exactly where Chow displays up with a shotgun and a lotta smoke bombs, having down baddies by his gotdamn self. Some of them he annihilates whilst they’re using bikes.
But the movie’s infamous centerpiece also will make up most of the next half. Chow and Leung team up and in essence shell out an hour taking out gangsters all around a medical center (exactly where a secret lair entire of guns and explosions is positioned, future to the morgue). Both of those sides actually do some critical injury, as the police try not to take out whichever clients the criminals have not currently wasted.
It is listed here the place Woo reveals off his flair for crafting brilliantly orchestrated carnage. In a bravura solitary acquire that lasts almost a few minutes, Chow and Leung shoot their way through two floors’ really worth of armed goons. In an interview in the 1997 ebook Hong Kong Babylon, Woo reported that scene, which took two days and “several hundred” rehearsals to shoot, was predictably intricate: “I nearly give up, but the crew and the stunt team and the actor, they all want to consider it once more. At final we got it performed.” Tough reaches its over-the-leading crescendo when Chow shoots far more fellas, jumps out a window and narrowly avoids myriad bombs that go off, all whilst keeping a newborn. In Babylon, Woo recalled how he almost killed his star all through this finale, individually supplying the cue to set off the blast when the stunt coordinator and the exclusive outcomes male refused to do it with Chow however in frame. (“Some of the explosion was pretty near to his entire body, and Chow Yun-body fat was actually operate for his lifestyle,” Woo explained, laughing.)
Hard is this kind of a gleefully gonzo blast of heroic bloodshed, it’s messed up that it’s yet an additional ‘90s film you now can not come across on any streaming provider. In reality, both of those Really hard and Killer—films that as soon as had their have, now-out-of-print Criterion Selection DVD releases practically a quarter-century ago—are trapped in some movie-rights limbo that tends to make them unavailable at the instant. As usually, thank God for YouTube, in which you can discover a subtitled version.
Viewing a movie that some offering soul uploaded on a movie-sharing system could not seem to be formal. But if you want to see a bonafide, Hong Kong shoot-‘em-up from a master—a film that gives you the proper amount of bullets, bombs and babies—getting Hard should not be that hard.
Craig D. Lindsey is a Houston-primarily based writer. You can stick to him on Twitter and Instagram at @unclecrizzle.