HARD BOILED (Chinese : 辣手神探) is a 1992
Hong Kong action film
written and directed by
John Woo , and starring
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 new born 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
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.
* 1 Plot
* 2 Cast
* 3 Production
* 3.1 Development
* 3.2 Filming
* 3.3 Post-production
* 4 Release
* 4.1 Theatrical run
* 4.2 Home media
* 5 Reception
* 5.1 Critical response
* 5.2 Accolades
* 6 Video game
* 7 Notes
* 7.1 References
* 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
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
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
* 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"
* 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
Bullitt respectively, and wanted to make his own Hong Kong
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
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. Director
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
Hard Boiled after many members of the crew of the film felt that
Leung's character should survive at the film's end.
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 Hark 's Once
Upon a Time in China 2 and the
Stephen Chow film Fight Back to School
The North American premiere of
Hard Boiled was in September 1992 at
Toronto International Film Festival
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
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
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 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." Salisbury
Hard Boiled to Woo's American films, stating that his Hong
Kong films are "not as slick as his later films, more inventive and
stylised and 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 of
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
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
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* Fang, Karen (2004). John Woo\'s A better tomorrow. Hong Kong
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Hong Kong portal
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