Hard Boiled is a 1992 Hong Kong action film written and directed by John Woo, and starring Chow Yun-fat as Inspector Tequila Yuen, Tony Leung as Alan an undercover cop, and Anthony Wong as Johnny Wong, a leader of a gang of 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 Tony, 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 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 1986's A Better Tomorrow and 1989's 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 to great acclaim as well.
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 with several police officers badly wounded, and Benny is killed. Tequila, seeking revenge, 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 ordered off the case.
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 his revolver is out of ammo. Although he is free to kill Tequila, Alan slowly lowers his gun and walks away, after which Tequila opens his revolver, and dumps all the shells, revealing them to apparently be blanks, although it is unclear if this is intentional or a mistake.
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. In front of Wong and Mad Dog, Alan then shoots Foxy in the chest, although he has 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 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 finding 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 in the torso, but then runs out of ammo. Wong shoots and kills Mad Dog while Alan escapes.
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 programmed 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 gun. 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 sails away from Hong Kong in his boat.
Cast of CharactersEdit
- 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 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 Tony.
- 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 Chau-Sang as Johnny Wong: Wong is the head of a Triad who encourages Alan to kill Uncle Hoi. Wong's triad has a large amount of guns hidden in the basement of a hospital.
- Bowie Lam as Benny: An undercover officer who is killed in the tea house shoot-out.
- 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 Tony 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.
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