Movie Project #20: Face/Off [1997]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Face/Off [1997]

Face/Off [1997]
Director: John Woo
Writers: Mike Werb, Michael Colleary
Country: USA
Genre: Action/Crime/Sci-Fi
Starring: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen
Running Time: 138 minutes

Going into Face/Off, I was hoping for a ridiculous, over-the-top action flick, and that’s exactly what I got. John Woo’s third American film is genius in that it sets up two of Hollywood’s craziest actors and lets both of them go off the rails.

Nicolas Cage is at his most deliriously best right from the get-go, playing a terrorist supervillain named Castor Troy. His archenemy is John Travolta’s Sean Archer, an FBI agent who is seeking revenge for the murder of his young son (killed by Troy, of course). Their first confrontation in the film depicts the age old battle of airplane vs. helicopter. Later, they fight on top of a speeding powerboat. The action scenes are signature Woo — stylish as all hell, and full of spectacular explosions.

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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