Sunday, April 18th, 2010
C’mon, who HASN’T wished they could do this?
I first saw John Woo’s Hard Boiled on Cinemax.The cable company gave us a free trial, and I timed my VCR to record this film, along with A Better Tomorrow, Vampire Hunter D, and The Wicked City. Although I can’t speak for those who lived in major metropolitan centers, in my day, both Hong Kong films and anime were damn hard to come by, especially if you lived in rural Oklahoma. Don’t worry, I’ll avoid the obligatory “You kids today don’t know how easy you’ve got it!” spiel and continue with my stroll down memory lane.
In my childhood, the only Chinese movies that I ever got to see on TV or on VHS were Bruce Lee films, Brucesploitation flicks, and badly dubbed chopsockies that were probably produced by studios other than Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest. As a result, Bruce Lee was probably the only identifiably positive image of an Asian man in American popular culture, and, of course, his appeal was very much tied up in his proficiency in the martial arts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. My point is — for those of us very much stuck in an American pop culture perspective, for an Asian guy to be cool, he had to know kung fu.
All that changed with Hard Boiled and Chow Yun-Fat. As silly as it may sound to those of you who are either a bit younger than me or who were always culturally plugged into Asian cinema, Chow Yun-Fat was the first Asian actor I’d ever seen who was undeniably cool. Of course, Cinemax showed the dubbed version, so Chow sounded like a pissed off Aussie, but it didn’t matter to me — Chow’s Tequila Yuen was a cool customer very much in line with the heroes I admired in Hollywood films — Dirty Harry, Snake Plissken, John McClane, etc. Role models aren’t that important to me anymore, but as a youngster, Chow Yun-Fat’s Tequila Yuen meant the absolute world to me.