Movie Project #13: Hard Boiled [1992]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Hard Boiled [1992]

Hard Boiled [1992]
Director: John Woo
Screenplay: John Woo (story), Barry Wong and Gordon Chan (screenplay)
Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Action/Crime/Drama
Starring: Yun-Fat Chow, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Teresa Mo, Philip Chan, Philip Kwok, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
Running Time: 128 minutes

Reason for inclusion: I had never seen a John Woo film.

Accolades: Hong Kong Film Award for Best Film Editing, #70 on Empire’s 100 Best Films of World Cinema

Hard Boiled is the type of action film that defies logic and just throws everything at you at 100 MPH. There are epic (and I mean EPIC) gun fights, huge explosions, seemingly endless bullets and witty remarks (You’re full of shit, you know that? There’s a toilet over there.). Oh, and there’s a baby that pisses on a dude’s leg to extinguish a fire.

Chow Yun-Fat stars as Inspector “Tequila” Yuen, a police officer who also happens to be one of the baddest ‘muthas on celluloid. After his partner is killed by a group of gun smugglers, Tequila vows revenge against the gang that ambushed them. His boss, Superintendant Pang (Philip Chan), has had enough of Tequila’s wild antics and tells him to give it up, but there’s no stopping him at this point.

Hard Boiled [1992]

Meanwhile, an undercover cop named Tony (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) is working his way up the ranks of said gang. He has quickly become a favorite of mob boss Johnny Wong (Anthony Wong), and that also puts him on the radar of Tequila. Once the two detectives run into each other, the cat gets out of the bag, causing them to work together to take down the evil Triads.

This film is famous for its penultimate action scene, a 40+ minute sequence that sees our two “heroes” fighting off waves of bad guys inside a maternity ward. It’s utterly outrageous, but this setting gives way to some truly outstanding choreographed violence. One scene even has Tequila holding a newborn baby in his arms while mowing down a couple of goons. Like I said, absolutely ridiculous, but so much fun at the same time!

Hard Boiled [1992]

While watching Hard Boiled, I couldn’t help but think of its massive influence still seen today. Not only do most modern action films owe a great deal to this John Woo feature, so do many video games. Two 2012 releases in particular are indebted to this — Sleeping Dogs and Max Payne 3. The former is basically a Hong Kong action film in video game form, and many of its storytelling techniques bare striking similarities to those found in Hard Boiled. With the latter, Max Payne‘s “bullet time” combat system is a dead ringer for some of Tequila’s slick shooting techniques.

Hard Boiled is excessive, and at times, there is so much going on that the mayhem is difficult to keep up with. Yet this is also an adrenaline rush from beginning to end, and it never lets its foot off the gas. This quenched my thirst for a good action flick, and it’s made me eager to see more from Mr. Woo.

8/10

Video Game Review: Sleeping Dogs [Xbox 360]

Sleeping Dogs [Xbox 360]

Sleeping Dogs
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3, PC and OnLive)
Genre: Action-Adventure, Open World
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: United Front Games
Release Date: August 13, 2012

It’s too easy to dismiss Sleeping Dogs as “Grand Theft Auto set in Hong Kong”, though the similarities are certainly there. Both are open world adventures set in a world of crime, but this offering from Square Enix is strong enough to stand out on its own.

The game places you in the role of Wei Shen, an undercover cop in Hong Kong who is tasked with infiltrating the infamous Triads gang to take them down from the inside. As the game progresses, the number of crime and mob story clichés increase, but the end result is still satisfying. It’s a well-told story, especially when compared to other like-minded video games, and it is engrossing despite its reliance on familiar tropes.

Sleeping Dogs [Xbox 360]

Since Wei is a highly-trained officer, he has an impressive array of skills at his disposal. Not only does he know how to handle a gun (of which there are many), but he is an expert in hand-to-hand combat. The fighting system is one area where Sleeping Dogs really shines — it’s very similar to Rocksteady’s Batman games, and it is easy to pick up and play. As Wei works through the story and completes different side missions, more fighting combos are unlocked, offering a surprisingly deep system.

Wei can also use his police abilities at various points, and these include hacking security cameras, lockpicking, and tracing cell phones. He is a man of many talents, and this leads to a diverse group of missions that send him all over the streets of Hong Kong.

Sleeping Dogs [Xbox 360]

While working undercover, Wei can perform work for the Triads while also sneaking off to help on police cases. There are dozens of random side quests scattered throughout, some of which include helping pedestrians with small tasks, street racing, or even performing karaoke. Quite simply, there is a lot to do in the game, with no shortage of things to discover.

One gameplay tweak that Sleeping Dogs offers over other sandbox titles is its increased amount of checkpoints. No longer do you need to replay an entire mission if you die — there are checkpoints provided after every major event. Unfortunately, while this sounds great in theory, it’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a relief to not have to drive halfway across the city just to restart a mission, but having so many checkpoints also lowers the difficulty quite a bit. During my 15+ hours with the game, I was rarely ever challenged. Once I got the hang of the countering system within combat, I was able to breeze through most of the missions, with nary a restart necessary. It’s a bit disappointing that the game is so easy.

Sleeping Dogs [Xbox 360]

On the flip side, one area that Sleeping Dogs absolutely nails is its presentation. A great amount of detail went into building the in-game Hong Kong, and the story is given the full Hollywood treatment, even bringing in big names for voice work, including Tom Wilkinson, Emma Stone and Lucy Liu. Perhaps most impressive is the in-game soundtrack. The score, composed by Jeff Tymoschuk (Nightfire, Everything or Nothing), is fantastic, but the radio stations are some of the best I have found in any game, period. Music buffs will love that there are stations devoted to individual record labels, including Daptone (Budos Band, Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings), Ninja Tune (Bonobo, Emika, Lorn) and Warp (Bibio, Flying Lotus, !!!).

It’s a shame that Sleeping Dogs got a bit lost in the summer of gaming, but it is a great sandbox title that deserves a good, long look. For fans of open world games, this is a must play, and it will likely be a fixture on my “best of” year-end list.

8.5/10