Hard boiled cop Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat) is on the trail of dome dodgy triad types. Tony (Tony Leung) works for Uncle Hoi, a triad boss. Their paths inevitably cross and the bullets fly. Enter Johnny Wong (the ubiquitous Anthony Wong - Heroic Trio, amongst many others), another triad boss. He mixes things up in this grimy underworld and the bullets fly again.
Hard Boiled shows a complete disregard for Health and Safety laws and indeed, human life. The stunt team are completely fearless. When the fights kick off, the stunts come thick and fast, most looking like they could cause paralysis at the very least. And when they're not hindering the stunt team's future mobility, they're giving them third degree burns from the shotgun blasts that explode at close range. They even involved a large group of babies in the mayhem. I dread to think how many people were hospitalised during the making of this.
Chow Yun-Fat is a total hero. If anyone wants a definition of the word cool just show them Chow Yun-Fat in this film. In one scene, he swings into a meeting of all of the local triads and takes them on. By himself. It's just him against an army. The choreography is excellent as he spins, twirls and dives (all in the trademark John Woo slow-motion) obviously firing many guns as he does so. When the end of the world comes I'm going to track him down to be in my Armageddon team, along with Ray Mears and Mary Berry. All the bases covered: super-cool violence, survival and salad dressings.
Despite being made in the nineties Hard Boiled has a very eighties feel. It looks like there's some definite Tony Scott involvement. The atmosphere is very smoky and the lighting is perfectly eighties. The vibe is finished off by the cheesy eighties soundtrack.
The story is standard issue with all of the things you'd expect from John Woo: friendship, romance and betrayals. No great shakes but it's just enough to give your senses a break from all of the killing. If you're coming to Hard Boiled looking for an involving deep storyline that uncovers a great human truth, then you'll be sadly disappointed. Whereas, if you're after an incredibly high body count...
One of the Frequently Asked Questions on IMDb is, "How can Tequila fire so many bullets without reloading?" Who cares? Keep the bullets flying.
If you like this you could also try:
The Killer, Police Story 1-3.