Our Favorite Action Scenes: 'Hard Boiled'

Our Favorite Action Scenes: 'Hard Boiled'

Jun 21, 2011


The last movie legendary Hong Kong actioneer John Woo made in his native China before emigrating to the US was 1992's pyrotechnic swan song, Hard Boiled. Overtly, Woo's film – about a maverick cop on a revenge mission (Chow Yun-Fat) who joins forces with an undercover officer (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) to take down a Triad ringleader (Anthony Wong) – is a fairly generic action vehicle. Switching the emphasis of his gangster flicks to a heroic cop, after critics lambasted his iconic tristesse for underworld honor in The Killer and A Better Tomorrow – the movie is a benchmark in filmic mayhem. Boasting scintillating bouts of slo-mo gunplay, interspliced with the director's penchant for wistful sentiment, the film is an explosive spectacle of near relentless pursuit. Woo's incendiary opus elevates action cinema to an art form, delivering operatic violence and breathtaking choreography that outguns Woo's stylistic antecedent, Sam Peckinpah. Summoning impressive performances from his cast, who occasionally manage to upstage the berserk spectacle – the director conducts his bullet ballet with potent metaphor.

Frequently musing on their destinies, the twinned heroes go above the law – and into the underworld – to hunt their arms-dealing quarry. In the famous hospital showdown, the death-dealing duo literally emerge from a gloomy Hades – the hi-tech morgue – before ascending to the hospital's summit, with Chow valiantly risking all to save a ward of captive babies. The stakes are clear – it's the future they're fighting for – and the promise of a better tomorrow for the colony. In one of the film's most bravura sequences, Woo eschews his trademark montage. Shot with a single handheld camera, one astounding 2 minute, 40 second take showcases the incredible craft of his team's stuntmen and their meticulous timing. The mind-blowing sequence cohered without any post-production magic – its most notable effects achieved in-camera, with Woo personally cranking the film speed. Check out one of action cinema's finest moments below, and prepare to have your brain broken.

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