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VINE VOICEon July 18, 2007
IMPORTANT NOTE: This review was written for the Dragon Dynasty DVD VERSION of this film, but thanks to Amazon's bizarre practise of porting reviews from one product platform to another product platform with no regard to differences between them, there's a good chance you're reading this review on the Blu-ray listing for this title. Having seen the Blu-ray version, I can say with absolute certainty that it is only a VERY MODEST improvement over the DVD in terms of picture quality. While I have neither the time nor inclination to review the Blu-ray, I would direct you to the extremely informative review at DVD Beaver (dot com), and concur 100% with the "disappointment" label given this release. What is most puzzling is the loss of the trailer gallery available on the earlier DVD set. Strange that a format that actually holds more is, in this case, used to hold less!

The remainder of this review is for the previous DVD special edition, which the new Blu-ray does little to better:

There should be no doubt that HARD BOILED is a phenomenal action picture, one of the best ever produced in Hong Kong. Much has been written all over the internet about it in the years since it was released direct-to-video in North America in the very early 90's.

Now, some 16 years later, through any number of flawed prints, alternate edits, crummy dubs and subtitles of varying quality, not to mention several PREVIOUS special editions on DVD, each with their own pros and cons, the chance to do right by this film in so many ways is, typically, blown by the Weinstein machine and their cabal of Hong Kong cinema experts.

Oh, sure, this disc is watchable, and considering there is now a generation of teenagers out there who weren't even BORN when this was released, I'm sure there will be new fans made from watching this film. But the film ain't the problem for the rest of us.

Who in their right minds, in 2007, puts DUBTITLES on a "premium" special edition of possibly one of the most important Hong Kong motion pictures of all time. DUBTITLES based on a dub that was made, what, 16 years ago now? That dubbed version was indeed responsible for bringing a great many western fans into the fold, but that doesn't mean we liked it. Or any dubbing for that matter. Just because HARD BOILED is over half action sequences doesn't automatically mean the dialogue sequences are unworthy of even a moderately more accurate translation of WHAT THE CHARACTERS ARE ACTUALLY SAYING IN CANTONESE. Instead, they appear to have paid the receptionist a few bucks to type the original dub script verbatim into the subtitle stream.

Thankfully, far superior subtitles are still available on other, BETTER DVD releases of the film. Some of which even have an image where Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Chow Yun-fat DON'T look like they've put on about 50 pounds!! I'm no expert on aspect ratios and the like, but I know enough, and I've seen enough Chow and Leung movies to know that they don't quite look like this in real life. Gotta wonder who's bright idea it was to CROP the movie, then STRETCH it back to the proper aspect ratio. I can think of a few people who probably figured no one would notice, or if they did, that they'd just be the usual internet pedants.

If that's what I am, so be it, but for god's sake, you think a label that so eagerly wants to be viewed as the top shelf for Hong Kong and Asian movies, would actually start treating those very products with some REAL respect. But then again, look what they did with their "edit" of the Protector. Laughable. And to hear the commentator on that one JUSTIFY the cuts tells me where he really stands when it comes to his paymasters' wishes. This edition of HARD BOILED is another clue.

If I were just reviewing the film, I'd give it 5 stars. But since this is a DVD review, and I managed to find one at a store that broke street date, AND I'm now out about [...] for something I now know I DIDN'T NEED TO UPGRADE, the best I can muster is (a generous) two stars, largely for the interviews on the second disc, which are not bad, and the location tour, which is not without interest.

The commentary on the other hand, while not a total write-off, obviously, offers SOME interesting tidbits that are tangentially related to the film itself, but to save a list of errors and 'best guesses' that would make your eyes glaze, just dig up a copy of the old Fox Lorber DVD from and listen to this film's CREATORS, John Woo and Terence Chang contradict Dragon Dynasty's commentator on several occasions. Or listen to the track on the Criterion edition of this title, where they do the same thing (though in fairness, the Fox Lorber track may have been a longer, uncut version of the Criterion one, only minus Roger Avery and Dave Kehr). John Woo and Terence Chang MADE the film, so who should you trust? A self-anointed expert? Sure, he means well enough, and he knows more than I do (which is why I'm a lowly peon who doesn't do commentaries ;) ), but a lot of the less film-specific stuff on this track feels awfully familiar...

Watch this disc for the movie (in Plump-o-Vision) and the interviews. Then do a little surfing to find one of the superior international versions if you really feel you need an "ultimate edition" in your collection, 'cause this ain't it.
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on July 24, 2007
Hard Boiled is one of the best action movies ever and every John Woo film from the 1980s is golden. Hard Boiled has been released twice in the U.S. now, once from Fox Lobrar and once from Criterion, both are now out of print. (Of course there are numerous companies in Asia selling the film currently, thank goodness for Ebay!) I own both versions; the Criterion one has the best features but the picture is noticiably darker. This version of Hard Boiled from Dragon Dynasty/Wienstein Company has an amazing picture, stand out colors, well lit dark scenes, and excellent detail. If I was juding this film on color, brighteness, and overall picture, I would give it 5 stars.

However, there is one major flaw to the film somehow slipped through the cracks. The original film's aspect ratio is 1.85:1; wide screen tvs at home are 16:9, or 1.78:1 (Standard tvs are 4:3 or 1.33:1). Because 1.85 is wider than 1.78:1, you will have small black bars on the top and bottom of a widescreen tv, this is normal. For some reason, they decided to turn this movie into widscreen 16:9, and what this means is images on the sides as well as top and bottom are cut off slightly. Imagine looking at a photograph and then zooming in about 7 percent all around, essentially this is what has happened here. The film is still viewable, but artistic quality is compromised because the image is being cut off all around.

As for this release, the menus are good and the special features looked neat, I haven't had time to watch them yet.

Hopefully by releasing this movie many people will get to see the film for the first time. Just be aware that the movie is not in its original format and that the image is cut off slightly on the top, bottom, and sides.
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on July 31, 2007
For those of you lucky enough to own the Criterion Collection edition of this movie, you might want to hold onto your copy as none of the extras from that edition are included on this one. That being said, the video and audio on this version easily surpass any previous Region 1 incarnations making this edition a must-have for fans of the movie.

The first disc features an audio commentary by Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan. He shows off his impressive knowledge of HK geography by pointing out which locations in the film don't exist anymore and their significance in the country's culture. Logan also dishes out interesting factoids, like the teahouse in the opening sequence was going to be demolished and this happened right after they filmed the last scene in the place! As with other commentary tracks that he has done his encyclopedic knowledge about the film and HK cinema in general is quite impressive, making for an informative track.

Disc two starts off with "A Baptism of Fire: A Featurette with Iconic Director John Woo." He was a big fan of Steve McQueen in Bullitt and Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry and with Hard Boiled; he wanted to create his own Dirty Harry. Woo wanted to make Chow Yun-Fat like Eastwood's iconic character but with the Asian actor's warm charisma.

"Partner in Crime: An Interview with Producer Terence Chang." He talks about how he met Woo in the late 1970s but that they didn't start working together until ten years later. Chang also talks about the genesis of the film which was originally a psycho who kills baby (?!). Fortunately, after they filmed the teahouse shoot-out, Chang convinced Woo to discard this idea.

"Art Imitates Life: An Interview with co-star Philip Chan," the actor who played Tequila's boss in the film. He was real policeman before getting into film and brought that authenticity to his role. He actually ran a team of undercover cops and speaks admiringly of working with Woo.

"Mad Dog Bites Again: An Interview with Leading Villain Kwok Choi." He talks about working with Woo on the film. Originally, he was hired to only design the action sequences but Chow Yun-Fat recommended him to play the villain's right-hand man.

"Hard Boiled Location Guide": takes us on a fun, fascinating tour of many of the locations from the movie. Some places, like the teahouse (which is now a mall), don't exist anymore and a little historical background is given to some of the places.

Also included are two trailers, the U.S. and Hong Kong versions.

Finally, there is "Stranglehold Video Game Mini-Making Of." This is the John Woo-approved sequel to Hard Boiled that allows you to play Tequila. This extra shows how deeply involved he was in the game's production with Chow Yun-Fat returning to provide the voice for his character!
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on October 27, 2007
Some brief back-story: I first experienced "Hard Boiled" in 1997 and, like all of it's fans, my jaw hit the floor. I had never seen anything like it in my entire life. Soon after seeing it, I bought the Hard Boiled/Killer VHS pack. That followed with "A Better Tomorrow" on VHS and "A Better Tomorrow 2" on DVD. Every so often, I would see the Criterion Collection version of "Hard Boiled" and "The Killer" but not wanting to shell out the money and believing it would be around forever I never picked it up.

Fast forward to 3 years ago when I make a concerted effort to own the best DVD versions of all the films I love. Believing that Criterion did it better then anyone, that's the one I wanted and that's when I discovered it was out of print. At that moment I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't watch either "Hard Boiled" or "The Killer" again until it was re-released on a special edition DVD.

Fast forward again to this July when I look in the weekly Best Buy ad and see "Hard Boiled: The Ultimate Edition". As quickly as my balloon became inflated, it was popped upon going online to read these facts about it:

1. It was not going to be presented in it's original aspect ratio.

2. Instead of upgraded subtitles, it would be subtitled with the script
from the dubbed version of the film.

3. No John Woo commentary track.

4. No interview or commentary track with Chow Yun-Fat about the film.

It was also disconcerting to read that no DVD version(not even the Criterion) of this classic was without it's flaws but more on that in a bit. Weighing my options, and feeling like a sellout, I purchased the Dragon Dynasty edition of the film.

This week, I finally got around to watching it. How do I feel about my four biggest reservations now?:

1. While not visually presented in the way that it was meant to be seen,
it is a MAJOR upgrade in quality over my VHS version.

2. To not have decent subtitles is ridiculous but the "dubtitles" weren't
so egregious that it ruined my enjoyment of the film.

3. The 37 minute interview with John Woo on Disc 2 almost completely made
up for not having a full length commentary.

4. Chow Yun-Fat was shown doing voiceover work for the game
"Stranglehold" but not having him speak about his experiences during
shooting still bothered me.

In addition, I had a whole new appreciation for Tony Leung's performance after this viewing. I was disappointed he was not included on any bonus features.

A couple of more things before I give my summation...the Bey Logan commentary track gave me more information about Hong Kong cinema then I was ever going to find out otherwise. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the genre made me wonder why I haven't gotten more into Hong Kong cinema beyond a few John Woo films. This makes up for a few of his assertions about the film itself which are probably off the mark. The Terrance Chang, Philip Chan, and Kwok Choi interviews are insightful and entertaining. Overall, the location guide didn't give me a sense that I was seeing where "Hard Boiled" was filmed but that might just be because the landscape has changed so much.

In conclusion, I can't understand why no distributor of this film has ever given it the proper DVD release it deserves. Like the back of this version says, "Hard Boiled" is a landmark in film history and deserves to be treated as such. Why Dragon Dynasty failed to achieve this on their crack at it is beyond me. This means that fans have to compare and contrast the 4 or 5 different editions of the film that are out there and decide which one suits their individual needs the most. Therefore, all I can say is that the Dragon Dynasty version of "Hard Boiled" suited my needs the best because:

1. It was major upgrade in picture quality.

2. It wasn't the dubbed version of the film, just the "dubtitles"
(which still bother me but not enough to not enjoy it)

3. It has some cool bonus features(if not everything that I wanted).

4. I could walk into my local Best Buy and purchase it.

Until a true "Ultimate Edition" comes out(if it ever does) 10, 15, 20 years from now, I will be happy with this edition. But that doesn't mean you are going to be.
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on January 30, 2013
This movie is fantastic.
However, it lists special features it does not have.
The sound quality is... meh.
The video quality is like a first-generation DVD. It's extremely piss poor, especially for a Blu-ray disc.
My copy was shipped without a factory sticker and it was obviously re-shrink wrapped.
This purchase was bullsh*t of the highest order!
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on January 11, 2004
"Give a man a gun and he is a hero. Give him two and he is God"

Nothing can quite prepare you for the amount of bullets that are used in this film - all done to an impeccable action style that has still not been beat. If there was ever a Guinness Book of Records for the "Most bullets shot in a film" John Woo's Hard Boiled would be first place for a very long time. It is a terrible shame that this director has only been toned-down by Hollywood. There is not a hope that he would be allowed to do what he has done here with Hong Kong actors to the Hollywood cream of the crop. It seems that it is okay to have a Hong Kong Asian to shoot the hell out of everything but this same action when applied to Western culture would only shock and shame. The same can be said for the star of Hard Boiled - Chow Yun-Fat (Crouch Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who since moving to the West has fired less bullets in all his Hollywood films put together than he does in the first five minutes of this film. Does that really matter? In many ways - Yes it does. Unlike THEIR Hollywood films the gun violence here is not gratuitous. It is artistic and warrented. No one can come away from this film to say that have seen unjustified and unnecessary amounts of actions. It is all integral to the style and plot of this movie. Yes, innocent people do get mowed down in a hail of hot lead and yes the violence is bloody, but is that not what gun violence is? Here you see exactly what guns do to people. Forget Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" - The true message of gun control is right here! The plot is even about the dangers of gun smuggling!
One thing for sure is that there is more gratuitous gun violence in most Hollywood productions than there is here. Here we have a hard boiled cop who is assigned to tracking down gun smugglers. He is a hard boiled cop because he knows how to use his guns. His superiors are using him to fight fire with fire. The action gets going from the word go as the hard boiled cop busts a gun dealing operation. His buddy cops and innocent people get killed in the process. He then goes to extract some revenge and put the big gun runners out of business - only problem is there are literally thousands of them he must cut down. Cue unrelenting battle sequences from start to finish all done in excellent style and slow-mo. You have not seen anything like Hard Boiled before, nor will you again. The ending in the hospital is like DIE HARD with ten thousand times more suspense.
Hard Boiled is also a wonderfully acted movie with excellent first rate action direction. The story is also coherent and good, especially for an Asian production. This is every action fans wet dream. Believe me if you have not seen Hard Boiled then it is about time that you did.
Majestic Filmmaking, not to mention John Woo's greatest film. This is the stuff of Legend with an action hero to root for.
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on May 1, 2015
One of my personal favorites of all time action movie wise, for many years I have been trying to find a new copy of this movie because all I could find was used copies. I like all my stuff new for all my collections movies, books, music. Hard Boiled contains everything I desire in an action movie great story line, intense shoot them up scenes, some comical one liners here there within the movie, and some killer special bonus material with the actors and director. So if your a true fan of John Woo movies and Chow Yun-Fat then this is a the movie for you to add to your movie collection and never get sick of watching it, I watched it a long time ago on TV and watched it last night bringing back great memories, but sometime down the road I even watch it again just for hell of it. So in closing to this day a killer action movie, with great action scenes, and some great bonus material for the action fans out there.
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on August 31, 2011
Hard-Boiled would be the last film John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat would work on. It's also the last film that Woo made before leaving Hong Kong for America. The end of the "Herioc Bloodshed" era of Hong Kong Cinema.

I first saw this film sometime in the earlier 90's via my grandparent's neighbors. Their dad was from Hong Kong and in addition to good home down Chinese cooking, an added bonus was watching cool HK flicks. Not just Woo's stuff, but those groovy HK horror films, in addition to Jackie and Samo gung-fu action comdies.

Hard-Boiled stayed with me for days after first seeing it. It was my first John Woo movie and it was the most out of this world action gun-fu fest that I had ever seen. There's not much I can saw about this film that has not been written up often over the years.

If you are a fan of HK Cinema/Herioc Blooshed, chances are you have seen this. If new to the genre this is an excellent entry point.

As far as the Dragon Dynasty release is concerned; this release is much better than Woo's The Killer. The extras are slim but have a lot of information via interviews on the background and production of the film. The picture and sound is a four out of five. The film itself is a five. A must see of the genre.
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on June 21, 2004
While not quite as tightly plotted or emotionally compelling as John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat's magnum opus "The Killer," "Hard Boiled" is still sure to please fans of that movie. Much of what made "The Killer" such a great film is to be found here: flawed heroes, murky allegiances, and ambiguous morals are once again the order of the day in this tale of cops and criminals living on the edge. At the same time, "Hard Boiled" manages to ratchet up the violence even further from its "sister" film, resulting in the most prolonged and intense action scenes I've ever witnessed, all filmed in Woo's signature frenetic style. A tea house, a warehouse, and ultimately a hospital all become battlegrounds in all-out war as the cops face an enemy that makes the Mafia look like a group of middle-school bullies.
Once again, Chow takes the lead in the protagonist's role, this time portraying relentless Hong Kong inspector "Tequila" Yuen. In true Woo-hero fashion, Tequila can shelter a baby with one arm while shooting up a small army of bad guys with the other. Joining him in his fight against the triads is Tony (Tony Leung) an undercover cop who's spent so much time working among gangsters that the line between the right side of the law and the wrong one is becoming blurred. However, Tony looks like a choirboy compared to the cartoonishly villanous Johnny Wong, an up-and-coming Triad boss who would probably kill his own mother if she got in his way. Johnny also has himself an extremely menacing sidekick in the form of a glowering, nameless enforcer who spends much of the film with a patch on one eye and still manages to give Tequila and Tony a few runs for their money.
It all comes to a head in the climactic showdown in the hospital-turned-arsenal, with the scene gradually evolving from tense standoff to full-scale shootout as the lives of hundreds of hostages hang in the balance. As most of Hong Kong's police force provides support, the two detectives lead the way against Johnny, his cycloptic colleague, and dozens of other gun-wielding menaces. And did I mention they have to make sure no harm comes to the adorable newborn babies in the nearby maternity ward? Yeah, Tony and Tequila sure have their work cut out for them as they fly through the air and unleash zillions of bullets, but it makes for some scintillating watching.
On the whole, "Hard Boiled" is definitely an engaging experience that's more than worth the money I shelled out for it. Much like "The Killer," this movie manages to pack much more psychological depth than the typical Hollywood shoot-'em-up with its portrayals of compromised heroes in harrowing circumstances. And of course, it goes without saying that Woo is nearly unparelelled when it comes to putting together action set pieces. Woo has made some moderately entertaining movies here in the States, but he hasn't managed to reach the level of his twin Hong Kong masterpieces. So check them out, if you dare.
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on March 16, 2002
Although "The killer" has to be my favourite John Woo film, this one comes a very close second. It also stars Chow Yun Fat playing an almost identical character, except that this time he's on the right side of the law - a cop named Tequila. Ruthless but with a sensitive side (renegade cop by day, musician by night) he's soon on the trail of a gang of gun smugglers. It's a fairly simple story, with just enough of a plot to sustain the viewer in between the epic gun fights and action sequences which are stunning enough to eclipse even those in "The killer". When Tequila's partner is killed during the first of many spectacular shoot-outs, he vows revenge. And after that there's so much action you soon lose count of the exploding cars, never mind the bodies and bullets. Again the film features an alliance between the main character and somebody who first appears as an enemy (a gangster who turns out to be an undercover cop) and you won't be disappointed by the apocalyptic showdown at the end.
Another shoot-em up classic!
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