Hard Boiled (Chinese: 辣手神探) is a 1992
Hong Kong action film
Barry Wong and directed by John Woo. It stars Chow Yun-fat
as Inspector "Tequila" Yuen,
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as Alan an undercover
cop, and Anthony Wong as Johnny Wong, a leader of the criminal triads.
The film features Tequila, whose partner (Bowie Lam) is killed in a
tea house gunfight with a small army of gangsters. One of the mob's
high-ranking assassins is the undercover cop Alan, who must team up
with Tequila for their common pursuit of taking down Wong's crime
syndicate. The film leads up to a climax in a hospital, where the two
must rescue innocent civilians and newborn babies from the maternity
ward while fighting off dozens of mob hitmen.
Hard Boiled was John Woo's last
Hong Kong film before his transition
to Hollywood. After making films that glamorized gangsters (and
receiving criticism for doing so), Woo wanted to make a Dirty Harry
styled film to glamorize the police. After the death of screenwriter
Barry Wong, the film's screenplay underwent constant changes during
filming. New characters such as Mad Dog and Mr. Woo were introduced,
while the original plotline of a baby poisoning psychopath was cut.
The film was released in
Hong Kong in 1992 to generally positive
audience reception, but it was not as commercially successful as Woo's
previous action films, such as
A Better Tomorrow
A Better Tomorrow and The Killer.
Reception from western critics was much more positive; many critics
and film scholars have come to proclaim its action scenes as among the
best ever filmed. In 2007, a video game sequel titled Stranglehold was
released, which is in the process of being made into a film.
4.1 Theatrical run
4.2 Home media
5.1 Critical response
6 Video game
8 See also
9 External links
In a tea house in Hong Kong, Officer "Tequila" Yuen (Chow Yun-fat) and
his partner Benny (Bowie Lam), attempt to arrest a group of gun
smugglers while they are making a deal. After an ambush from another
gang member, a fierce gun battle breaks out. The gangsters are
defeated but several police officers are badly wounded and Benny is
killed. Angered by the death of his partner, Tequila decides to kill
the gangster who ambushed them rather than arrest him. This angers his
boss, Officer Superintendent Pang (Philip Chan), who wanted the
gangster alive to testify. Tequila is subsequently ordered off the
case for his misdemeanor.
Elsewhere, a high-ranking assassin, Alan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), works
for Triad boss "Uncle" Hoi (Kwan Hoi-Shan). Alan murders a fellow
member of Hoi's gang, who had been working for Johnny Wong's (Anthony
Wong) rival syndicate. Wong is impressed by Alan's skill and attempts
to recruit him. Alan reluctantly turns against Hoi when Wong conducts
a raid on Hoi's arsenal at a warehouse. At the warehouse, Wong's men
kill Hoi's workers and destroy his stock. When Hoi arrives, Wong
demands Alan kill Hoi, which he does, along with the rest of Hoi's
men. Just then, smoke grenades explode and Tequila attacks. Alan
covers Wong's escape as Tequila battles and kills most of the
gangsters. In the end, Tequila finds himself confronting Alan face to
face in the smoke, with guns to each other's heads. Tequila tries to
shoot Alan, but finds he is out of ammo. Although he has a chance to
kill Tequila, Alan slowly lowers his gun and walks away.
At the police station, Pang confirms that Alan is actually an
undercover cop. Tequila tracks Alan down to his sailboat to try to
make sense of the situation, but the two are ambushed by the remnants
of Hoi's gang. Tequila and Alan manage to kill their attackers just
before Wong arrives, which allows Alan to keep his cover. Wong
realizes that one of his gangsters named Foxy (Tung Wei), is an
informant for the police. Foxy is beaten at the docks by Wong's
henchman Mad Dog (Philip Kwok) in front of Alan and Wong. Alan then
shoots Foxy in the chest, although he secretly placed a cigarette
lighter in Foxy's breast pocket earlier to prevent the shot from being
fatal. Foxy finds Tequila at a jazz bar and informs him that Wong's
armory is in the nearby Maple Group Hospital. As Tequila takes Foxy to
the hospital, Wong finds out that Foxy is alive and sends Alan to kill
Foxy, as well as sending Mad Dog separately to cover Alan. At the
hospital, Alan confronts Tequila, demanding to know the whereabouts of
Wong's arsenal. While Alan and Tequila are distracted, Foxy is killed
by Mad Dog.
Alan and Tequila discover a hidden passage in the hospital leading to
Wong's arsenal. They are confronted by Mad Dog, who engages them. Wong
arrives at the hospital and has all the patients, police officers and
staff taken hostage. After fighting their way to the main lobby, Alan
and Tequila liberate the kidnapped patients and police officers. Pang
evacuates the lobby while police detective Teresa Chang (Teresa Mo)
goes to the maternity ward to organize evacuating the babies. Alan and
Tequila continue fighting gangsters until they find Mad Dog. While
Tequila goes to assist Chang with the babies, Alan and Mad Dog find
themselves in a standoff with a group of patients caught in the
middle. They slowly put their guns down and offer the patients safe
passage, until Wong appears and shoots them all. An enraged Mad Dog
shoots Wong's gun out of his hand. Wong shoots and kills Mad Dog while
Tequila finds the last baby in the maternity unit, and carries it to
safety while fighting off the last of the gangsters. Alan and Tequila
meet up again and are confronted by Wong, who has set bombs to blow up
the building. Alan pursues Wong as Tequila escapes the hospital with
the last baby, the hospital exploding around him. Outside, Wong
suddenly appears holding Alan at gunpoint. After watching Wong
humiliate Tequila, Alan grabs Wong's pistol. In a struggle, Alan
shoots himself through the stomach giving Tequila enough time to shoot
Wong dead. Later at the police station, Pang and Tequila burn Alan's
police file. Alan then sails away from
Hong Kong in his boat.
Actor Anthony Wong who portrayed the head of a Triad.
Chow Yun-fat as Inspector "Tequila" Yuen: A clarinet-playing police
officer whose partner is killed in a restaurant gunfight with a small
army of gangsters. Chow had previously worked with director John Woo
on several of his films, including A Better Tomorrow, The Killer and
Once a Thief.
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as Alan: An undercover cop posing as a
high-ranking Triad assassin. He makes an origami crane every time he
kills someone, a trait which was influenced by Woo's daughter when he
saw her making them. Tony's character is shown as living alone and
detached from others. Woo stated that this was influenced by Alain
Delon's character in the French crime film Le Samouraï. Leung had
previously worked with Woo on his film Bullet in the Head.
Teresa Mo as Teresa Chang: A fellow police officer who is the
girlfriend of Inspector "Tequila" Yuen. Chang helps decode the secret
code songs that are sent to the police office by Alan.
Philip Chan as Supt. Pang: Prior to the film,
Philip Chan was a police
officer for about fifteen years.
Philip Chan felt that certain scenes
in the film were very familiar as they were similar to things had to
do with real police work.
Philip Kwok as Mad Dog: A skilled gunfighter working for Johnny Wong.
Anthony Wong as Johnny Wong: Wong is the head of a Triad who
encourages Alan to kill Uncle Hoi. Wong's triad has a large number of
guns hidden in the basement of a hospital.
Bowie Lam as Benny: An undercover officer who is killed in the tea
Anjo Leung as Benny's son.
Bobby Au-Yeung as Lionheart: An assistant to Inspector "Tequila" Yuen.
Kwan Hoi-Shan as Mr. Hoi: A triad boss who is the head of the gang
Alan is investigating. Mr. Hoi is killed in a warehouse shoot-out.
Tung Wei as Foxy: An undercover cop beaten up by Mad Dog. Foxy is
spared by Alan, and lives to deliver information to Tequila from Alan.
Foxy is later killed by Mad Dog at the hospital in which the final
shoot-out takes place.
John Woo as a Bartender: A bartender at the Jazz club who gives advice
to Inspector "Tequila" Yuen.
The film was originally developed in 1990. After creating films
which focused on the lives of gangsters, director
John Woo wanted to
make a film that glorified the police instead. Woo admired Clint
Eastwood's and Steve McQueen's characters from their films Dirty Harry
Bullitt respectively, and wanted to make his own Hong Kong-style
Dirty Harry police detective film. While creating this character,
Woo was inspired by a police officer who was a strong-willed and tough
member of the police force, as well as being an avid drummer. This led
to Woo having Tequila's character be a musician as well as a cop.
Before production started, Woo told his actors that he was not going
to make the film as stylish as his previous films, but to have it be
more of an "edgy thriller". The role of Teresa Chang was originally
made for actress
Michelle Yeoh who had a long relationship with
producer Terence Chang. After casting Teresa Mo, the character of
Teresa Chang was greatly re-written. The film's initial story was
about Tony Leung's character being a psychopath who would poison baby
Terence Chang was making connections to have Woo make
films in the United States, Chang found people uninterested and
disgusted with the theme of babies being poisoned. This halted
production for a month to develop a new story. Screenwriter
Barry Wong was brought in to write a new story about Tony Leung's
character being an undercover police officer. After writing the first
part of the script, Wong went on a vacation outside Hong Kong, where
he died leaving the script unfinished.
Hard Boiled took 123 days to shoot. Although Woo told his cast
that the film would be more gritty and not as stylish as his previous
Hard Boiled became more stylish as the filming began. The
tea house sequence in the film was shot before the script was
written. The crew found that the tea house was going to be torn
down and decided to film a scene there. Woo saw the staircase in the
tea house, and thought about a scene where a character would come
shooting down gun smugglers while sliding down the banister. The
tea house sequence was shot in around a week's time and was
choreographed by Woo and Philip Kwok. It was shot with
interruptions from many local triads in the area asking for protection
money, and residents complaining about the noise.
John Woo acted in
Hard Boiled as a bartender who would give
Chow Yun-Fat's character advice. Woo's character was developed after
filming had already started.
The script of the film went through several changes during filming.
Due to the length of the film, scenes from a side-story involving the
relationship between the character Tequila and Teresa Chang were
cut. Another cut scene included Tequila playing clarinet over
Benny's grave. With these cuts, Chow Yun-Fat felt his character was
not very deep in comparison to Leung's character of Alan. To develop
his character more, Chow asked
John Woo to insert a mentor character
in the film, which Woo himself would play. Chow felt that having Woo
in this role would make Woo not cut out these scenes. Philip
Kwok's role of Mad Dog was not in the script and was created on the
set. Kwok first worked with Woo on his film Once a Thief and was asked
to return to work on Hard Boiled. After reading the script, Woo
felt that the character of Johnny Wong was not a strong enough
physical threat. After seeing Kwok do several of the stunts while
filming, Woo created the character of Mad Dog for him.
The scenes shot at the Hospital maternity ward and the warehouse were
shot at a new studio called "The Coca-Cola Factory" which was formerly
a Coke bottling plant. The hospital scenes took 40 days to
shoot. The hospital segment's location was chosen since they
wanted to have an atypical location where gangs would hide their
weapons. While filming in the hospital, the windows were covered
with blast shields to give the appearance of night time, which allowed
the crew to film at any time during the day. Members of the cast and
crew stayed in the hospital for days often losing track of the time of
day. After long hours of filming in the hospital, the crew became
exhausted. This led to having the last scene be one long five-minute
scene of action to shorten the time needed to film. To complete this,
during the scene when two characters go into an elevator to talk for
twenty seconds, the crew changes the scene entirely and sets up the
explosions for the scene to continue seamlessly. An accident
occurred while filming the hospital sequence. Real glass was used and
pieces of it flew toward Tony Leung and got into his eyes. Leung was
sent to the hospital and after a week's rest, he returned to the
set. Woo changed the ending of
Hard Boiled after many members of
the crew of the film felt that Leung's character should survive at the
Woo is a fan of jazz music and wanted this style for the soundtrack of
Hard Boiled. Woo had also previously wanted a singer to perform a
jazz song and have Chow Yun Fat's character play saxophone in his
previous film The Killer. The producer for The Killer, Tsui Hark,
rejected this idea for The Killer, feeling that
Hong Kong audiences
didn't enjoy and understand jazz music. The score heard in Hard
Boiled was created by jazz musician Michael Gibbs. During promotional
screenings, the score for the film was different and was described as
"very haunting music" by film scholar Bey Logan. This score could not
be used as the production crew could not get the rights to the
music. Other songs featured in the film, include "Hello" by Lionel
Richie and the traditional song "Mona Lisa". Woo chose these songs
specifically for their lyrics to suggest that Tony was a sort of pen
pal to Teresa. All the characters in
Hard Boiled had their voices
dubbed by their own actors in order to save money. Woo stated this was
convenient as he did not have to worry about setting up boom mics and
other sound elements.
Hard Boiled's was released on 16 April 1992 in Hong Kong. The film
grossed HK$19,711,048 which was not as strong of a box office
reception as Woo's previous action films
A Better Tomorrow
A Better Tomorrow or The
Killer. On the film's initial release in
Hong Kong it
debuted at number 3 in the box office where it was beaten by Tsui
Once Upon a Time in China 2
Once Upon a Time in China 2 and the
Stephen Chow film Fight
Back to School II.
The North American premiere of
Hard Boiled was in September 1992 at
the Toronto International Film Festival. At the premiere the
audience response was very positive with people stomping their feet
and yelling at the screen. This reception surprised producer Terence
Chang who did not expect such a positive reaction. Hard Boiled
received wide release in the United Kingdom on 8 October 1993.
A laserdisc edition of
Hard Boiled was released by The Criterion
Collection in December 1995. A Region Free DVD of
Hard Boiled was
The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection on 10 July 1998. A second
Region 1 DVD of the film was released by Fox Lorber. Fox Lorber
released the film as a stand-alone release and as a double feature
with The Killer on 3 October 2000. Originally, when Miramax
bought the rights to Hard Boiled, The Killer, and Bullet to the Head,
they intended to release it in a cut version on video, it was until
Woo prevented them from releasing it except Woo prefers his cut of his
films to be released. The most recent Region 1 release of Hard Boiled
was from Dragon Dynasty, who released a two disc DVD of the film on 24
July 2007. A
Blu-Ray version of the film was included as part of
the Stranglehold Limited Edition for the PlayStation 3, and was later
released as a standalone title by Dragon Dynasty.
Hard Boiled was received well by English-language critics on its
original release. The film ranking website
Rotten Tomatoes reported
that 94% of critics had given the film positive reviews, based upon a
sample of 31. Initial reception was positive. Vincent Canby of The
New York Times found it difficult to follow both the action scenes and
the subtitles at the same time, but stated that "Mr. Woo does, in
fact, seem to be a very brisk, talented director with a gift for the
flashy effect and the bizarre confrontation." A review in the Los
Angeles Times stated that "With Hard Boiled,
John Woo shows himself to
be the best director of contemporary action films anywhere." The
Philadelphia Inquirer spoke positively about the action scenes, noting
the "epic shootouts that bookend Hard-Boiled, John Woo's blood-soaked
Hong Kong gangster extravaganza, are wondrously staged, brilliantly
photographed tableaux." The
Boston Herald proclaimed the film as
"arguably Woo's masterpiece, it is an action film to end all action
films, an experience so deliriously cinematic it makes "True Romance,"
a film that clearly aspires to it, look like a cheap copy" A
Newsday gave the film three and a half stars, stating that
"Mayhem has never looked better than in John Woo's latest high-caliber
cops-and-robbers thriller, even if the plot is a bit slippery" and
John Woo "has blasted the action genre onto a whole new level.
His shootouts are a ballet; his firebombings are poetry. And while he
lets the body count get away from him, he constantly fascinates,
through a combination of chaos and an excruciating control over what
we're allowed to see."
"I found out Western audiences love it more than The Killer. The
critics liked The Killer more because it mixed the action with the
art. But movie lovers liked Hard Boiled."
John Woo on the reception of Hard Boiled
After the film's initial release, critical reception continues to be
positive. Film scholar Andy Klein wrote that the film is "almost a
distillation of [Woo's] post-1986 work. Even if the plot is full of
holes, and the emotional tug isn't quite as strong as in The Killer,
the action sequences (nearly the whole movie) are among the greatest
ever filmed". Mark Salisbury of
Empire Magazine gave the film
four stars out of five, calling it "Infinitely more exciting than a
dozen Die Hards, action cinema doesn't come any better than this."
Hard Boiled to Woo's American films, stating that
Hong Kong films are "not as slick as his later films, [Hard Boiled
is] more inventive and stylised and [has] great early performances
from Fat and Leung". Empire placed the film at number 70 in their
list of "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010. Ed Gonzalez
Slant Magazine gave the film the highest rating of four stars,
proclaiming it to be one of Woo's best films. The British film
magazine Empire ranked the character of Tequila as 33rd in their "The
100 Greatest Movie Characters" poll.
At the 12th
Hong Kong Film Awards, David Wu and
John Woo won the award
for "Best Film Editing". Tony Leung was nominated for "Best Supporting
Male Actor", but lost the award to
Liu Kai-Chi in Cageman.
Main article: Stranglehold (video game)
Midway Games released the game Stranglehold. The game's story
and storyboards were made in collaboration with John Woo. The game
features the character Tequila from Hard Boiled, who is travelling the
globe in search of his kidnapped daughter. John Woo's production
company Lion Rock Entertainment is developing a film version of the
game which will be written by Jeremy Passmore and Andre Fabrizio.
^ Elder, 2005, pg. 117
^ Elder, 2005, pg. xxviii
^ Heard, 1999. p.244
^ Heard, 1999. p.246
^ a b Heard, 1999. p.247
^ "Hard Boiled". Criterion Collection. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
^ a b c d e f g
Hard Boiled (Commentary with
John Woo and Terence
Chang). John Woo. Fox Lorber Films. 2000 .
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Woo, John (2007). A Baptism Of Fire: An
Interview With Director
John Woo (DVD). Santa Monica, California,
United States: Dragon Dynasty.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k
Hard Boiled (Commentary with Bey Logan). John
Woo. Dragon Dynasty. 2007 .
^ a b c d e f g h i Chang, Terence (2007). Partner in Crime: An
Interview With Producer
Terence Chang (DVD). Santa Monica, California,
United States: Dragon Dynasty.
^ Heard, 1999. p.98
^ a b Kwok, Philip (2007). Mad Dog Bites Again: An Interview With
Philip Kwok (DVD). Santa Monica, California, United States:
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^ Fang, 2004. p.44
^ a b Heard, 1999. p.78
^ Hall, 1999. p.164
^ a b "
Hong Kong Film Archive".
Hong Kong Film Archive. Retrieved 4
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2 (4): 20–23.
^ Heard, 1999. p.105
^ Jackson, Kevin (7 October 1993). "The drop-dead director: John Woo
makes movies with guts, and buckets of blood. Kevin Jackson talks to
him. Plus Jeremy Clarke on Chow Yun-Fat, Woo's favourite leading
hard-man". The Independent. Retrieved 28 May 2010.
^ "Hard-Boiled overview". Allmovie. Archived from the original on 1
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^ "The Killer (1989) November 6, 2012". Allmovie. Retrieved 6 November
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Hard Boiled - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.
Inc. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
^ Canby, Vincent (18 June 1993). "
Hard Boiled (1992) Review/Film;
Blood, Fire And Death, Slow-w-wly". The New York Times. Retrieved 8
^ a b Heard, 1999. p.104
^ "Blood, Bodies, Guns, Mobsters from Hong Kong". The Philadelphia
Inquirer: E02. 20 July 1993. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
^ Verniere, James (10 September 1993). &pqatl=google "Movie Review
'Hard Boiled' a hard-core action film Hard Boiled". Boston Herald:
s.10. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
^ Anderson, John (18 June 1993). "Cops and Robbers, Cantonese-Style".
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^ Bernstein, Jonathan (September 1993). "Killer Instinct". Spin. SPIN
Media LLC. 9 (6): 92. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved 25 May
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^ Salisbury, Mark. "Empire Reviews Central - Review of Hard Boiled".
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^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema – 70. Hard Boiled". Empire.
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^ Gonzalez, Ed (27 December 2003). "Hard Boiled/ Film Review". Slant
Magazine. Archived from the original on 8 September 2009. Retrieved 8
^ "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire. Retrieved 8 August
^ 第十二屆香港電影金像獎得獎名單 [Twelfth Hong Kong
Film Awards Winners].
Hong Kong Film Awards (in Chinese). Retrieved 9
^ Stranglehold Preview (DVD). Santa Monica, California, United States:
Dragon Dynasty. 2007.
^ Leach, Gracie. "
John Woo Presents Stranglehold - Overview -
allgame". Allgame. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
^ Parfitt, Orlando. "IGN: Woo Making
Hard Boiled 2". IGN. Retrieved 8
Fang, Karen (2004). John Woo's A better tomorrow.
Hong Kong University
Press. ISBN 962-209-652-2.
Hall, Kenneth E. (1999). John Woo: The Films. McFarland.
Heard, Christopher (1999). Ten Thousand Bullets: The Cinematic Journey
of John Woo. Doubleday Canada. ISBN 0-385-25731-7.
Elder, Robert K. (2005). John Woo: Interviews. University Press of
Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-776-6.
Hong Kong portal
Chow Yun-fat filmography
Hong Kong films of 1992
List of action films of the 1990s
Dragon Dynasty releases
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Films directed by John Woo
The Dragon Tamers
The Dragon Tamers (1975)
Hand of Death
Hand of Death (1976)
Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979)
Laughing Times (1981)
Run, Tiger, Run (1985)
A Better Tomorrow
A Better Tomorrow (1986)
Heroes Shed No Tears (1986)
A Better Tomorrow
A Better Tomorrow II (1987)
The Killer (1989)
Just Heroes (1989)
Bullet in the Head
Bullet in the Head (1990)
Once a Thief (1991)
Hard Boiled (1992)
Hard Target (1993)
Broken Arrow (1996)
Once a Thief (1996)
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
Red Cliff (2008)
Reign of Assassins
Reign of Assassins (2010)
The Crossing (20