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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

My Top Hong Kong Films of the 1990s — A Cop Named Tequila


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.

Here are my thoughts, pulled from my recommendations page:

As John Woo’s last and perhaps best Hong Kong movie, Hard Boiled is the kind of film where critical hyperbole like “it’s a pulse-pounding, high-octane thrill ride” isn’t far from the truth. Although his role as Mark in the A Better Tomorrow films may be more iconic, Chow Yun-Fat owns all as Tequila Yuen, a swaggering hardboiled cop who radiates so much charm and charisma that it’s not hard to see why Chow was dubbed “the coolest actor on the planet” a few years back. But of course, with most John Woo films, the action is the main draw, and Hard Boiled doesn’t disappoint. In the words of my esteemed colleague Kozo, this movie boasts the “MOST INSANE BLAZING TWO-GUN ACTION YOU’LL EVER SEE.” And he’s right on the money. In terms of balletic action, this is John Woo at his finest.

All these years later, it’s still a fantastic ride and, as with the other films on my list, could have easily taken the #1 slot. Not to sound elitist, if you don’t know Hard Boiled, you don’t know Hong Kong cinema.

 *     *      *

Introduction: Top Hong Kong Films of the 1990s
Part 1: Tian Mi Mi
Part 2: Once Upon a Time in the Cinema
Part 3: Jackie Chan, Man of Action
Part 5: WKW is A-OK
Part 6: Epilogue

One Response to “My Top Hong Kong Films of the 1990s — A Cop Named Tequila”

  1. Timo Says:

    I always felt HARD BOILED was totally overrated and THE KILLER & ABT far superior. In my opinion the action is just way too over-the-top. Yes, it’s totally crazy and fun for the first 10 minutes, but after a while I got so used to and desensitized by the constant barrage of people being shot every second it just became noise to me. I just stopped caring. I love action as much as the next guy, but sometimes less really is more.

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