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The Killer (1989) vs. Hard Boiled (1992)
#1

Now I know there's a whole bunch of John Woo heroic bloodshed movies and you're all desperate to make your case for BULLET IN THE HEAD or A BETTER TOMORROW but the reason I'm putting these two head to head is because they're regarded as Woo's iconic works, and because they're my favourite films which I watched on Blu yesterday.

It strikes me that despite both being action movies made by the same team within the same time period that these two films are about as different an experience as you can get in action cinema. THE KILLER for all of its praise as the definitive action thriller is actually kind of surprisingly artsy and prosaic at times, with it's action coming in spits and spats and it's primary concern being the relationship between it's trio of lead characters. It's a film I really like, but it's also a film that I can understand underwhelming people familiar with it's reputation. To me it feels like THE KILLER is a product of its time and place, with it's action sequences and choreography working as a prototype for future films to come. It's the beginning of an action film formula and I don't think Woo really refines his style until HARD BOILED. It also doesn't help that the film is largely peopled by ciphers, ciphers who aren't particularly fun to spend time with. Ah Jong and Li Ying never really seem to have much of a compelling relationship in the film with Ah Jong being at times monosyllabic and Li Ying desperately trying to hide man-crush. Jennie meanwhile seems to exist purely as a plot point. It doesn't help that the villains aren't particularly well defined either, they're just their and defined by their shades or their matching white outfits. As such the stakes never feel properly set up because it's hard to care about Ah Jong and Li, and you don't really care about bringing justice to the unnamed army of mooks.

HARD BOILED on the other hand is built around the relationship between Tequila and Alan and because Chow Yun-Fat and Tong Leung are awesome the relationship actually works. It helps that they're up against Anthony 'motherfucking' Wong at his maniacal best and that he has a character like Mad Dog, who is still one of my favourite action film henchmen, at his disposal. HARD BOILED is a far bigger, far more technically ambitious, film than THE KILLER but it always feels to me like it has a far firmer grasp on it's characters than THE KILLER ever does. The only thing that hurts HARD BOILED is that's it's kind of horribly paced and the half hour before the final hospital shoot out (which is still one of my all time favourite action sequences) sort of judders along with no sense of urgency or agency. What makes the film work, aside from it's insane pyrotechnics, is how well all the ancillary characters work. It's a movie full of broad, fun, characters and everyone gets their chance to shine. It's also hellaciously violent, I think Tequila matches the entire bodycount of Die Hard whilst ziplining into the weapons factory and the film has no qualms about letting the murder run rampant. Michael Gibbs score, aside from sounding similar to Horner's work on Commando, is great too. I especially love the really heavy drum beat, and fanfare, which kicks in whenever shits about to go down.

But I'm genuinely interested on the Chud consensus on this, so gentlemen (and women) get voting.

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#2

You CAN'T do this. This is like your girlfriend asking you which one of her boobs you like better.

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#3

That's true. I chose The Killer because its still my favorite Woo and blew my mind when I saw it on Cinemax Vanguard Cinema in 91.

Its just a film that's style and presentation can't be duplicated. Chow Yun Fat and Danny Lee are wonderful as is Kong Chu as his assassin friend.

The power of the emotions in the movie and the sad ending just can't be equaled by many films.

Love Bullet In The Head and Hard Boiled as well but The Killer remains my favorite Woo.

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#4


Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabe T View Post

You CAN'T do this. This is like your girlfriend asking you which one of her boobs you like better.


The middle one, of course.

I agree with Spike that the two films are surprisingly different beasts, while being similar on some superficial levels. I've always likened them to Alien and Aliens in that way. My heart lies with The Killer, though. Hard Boiled has the more ambitious and technically confident action, but its story and characters have never stuck with me as much as The Killer. I think this has to do with The Killer's overt melodrama and more elemental story. I can tell someone who's never seen it what it's about in a few sentences and make it sound compelling, but Hard Boiled isn't as easily boiled down for me (sorry). As for the villains, I don't think either film is really remembered for its villains anyway - the bromance makes these movies.

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#5

In my opinion, The Killer is the all 'round better movie.  I found Hard Boiled grueling starting about half way through.  It was just too much of everything.  Taken in pieces, Hard Boiled could be great but it's too much to keep me hooked.  That said, I saw The Killer first and one thing I've noticed is that whichever one of the two films a person sees first, that's their favourite.

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#6

Spike Marshall, To me...Hardboiled is such a...KILLER film, that it is my favorite John Woo production!  Hardboiled has alot more action, shoot outs, and also I prefer Chow Yun Fat as a...Heroic Cop, over his assassin in The Killer!

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#7
A
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#8

Hard Boiled

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#9

Despite it's violent nature, The Killer manages to be so elegant and poetic. It's an outstanding film and there will never be another like it.  However, the visceral thrill that comes from watching Hard Boiled hasn't diminished for me and I've seen the films countless times. I can't definitively pick one over the other, it's strictly a question of mood for me.

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#10

This is almost an unfair question.



In my mind, these two movies represent a packaged deal.  THE KILLER will always resonate a little more with me because it was the first John Woo movie I was able to see in the early 1990's.  It oozes style and melodrama in a way that was innovative in world cinema at the time.  I actually caught HARD BOILED in a small arts theater around time of release and felt that Woo took his kinetic style to the next level, giving the audience a love letter to the poetic gunplay, interpersonal cop/bad guy relationships, and wry humor that capped off his work in Hong Kong before China regained control.  It's a nice swansong to an era that has never been recaptured.



I say enjoy them both and don't pit them against each other.  How about a Woo Hong Kong vs. Woo After Hong Kong face off?

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#11
AOh come now. You know that's no contest.
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#12

Thanks for reminding me I still need to see THE KILLER resurrected thread.



HARD BOILED is a fucking great movie that I always have time for though.

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#13

Easily Hard Boiled.  The Killer is, frankly, kind of boring.

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#14
Quote:

Originally Posted by RCA View Post
 

Easily Hard Boiled.  The Killer is, frankly, kind of boring.


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