Hard Boiled (1993)


A renegade cop teams up with an undercover agent to bring down a gun runner with a massive arms cache hidden in a local hospital.

John Woo is rather artless and clumsy where it comes to anything other than action, so it comes as little surprise that one of his best films by far includes very little else. And action it has in spades. The now familiar tough guy cop clad in sunglasses and duster coat, leaping through the air in slow motion, twin pistols blazing has now passed into cliche, but this was Woo’s invention; his artistic take on action influenced everyone from James Cameron to the Wachowski brothers and Robert Rodriguez. The action is non-stop and absurdly over the top, and if it weren’t the film wouldn’t work half as well. It’s true that the characters are complete stereotypes, the dialogue corny and the action genre has certainly moved on since 1992 but like its contemporary martial arts films, the lack of CGI and modern camera techniques gives it a rawness and physicality that’s missing from today’s equivalents. It’s an exploitation flick cunningly disguised as a cop thriller and the combination of brilliantly choreographed violence – the extended takes of the hospital shoot out in particular – and super-cool leads makes for an unpretentious, action-packed blast.

The birth of the modern action movie.


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