"It's Not a Party if You Don't Have a Gun in Both Hands!"
The Killer (1989): 5/5
Chow Yun-Fat is "Mickey Mouse", a professional killer for hire. After having a shootout in a bar, he leaves a beautiful singer blind. He secretly follows her around and begins to know her after she is being mugged one night after leaving the bar. The police are following in on him and his whereabouts. Soon, the Triads and police are all closing in on him.
It's a pretty sweet action film. I remember seeing this film in the winter of 1999. I was ten years old and was pretty blown away at the action in this. Chow Yun-Fat does a great job in this movie. And the ending is pretty spectacular. I give the film a 5/5.
Hard Boiled (1992): 5/5
Chow Yun-Fat is on the law's side in John Woo's follow up. This time Chow is Tequlia, a cop is down and out after his partner gets killed in a tea house. Tequlia vows to get all of those responsible and that leads him onto the trail of Alan. Alan, played by Tony Leung, is an informant who is way over his head and it has come to the point where he has no way out. It all leads to a massive, all out war at a hospital where police and Triads collide.
This film is nothing short of a masterpiece. Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung are a great duo who constantly bicker and kick ass throughout the movie. The whole warehouse raid is amazing as we have nothing but gunfire and explosions left and right. And the whole hospital sequence at the end just tops it. This is the essential action movie. 5/5.
Before I start going into the video for both films, I am not sure if the original individual releases by Dragon Dynasty/The Weinstein Company/Vivendi Visual/Whatever has this, but Alliance put a warning screen before we get to the menu that says:
"The quality of the audio and video on this Blu-ray may reflect the age of the source material."
That is because there is some bad quality control problems with the transfers. Starting with The Killer; I question when this HD master was created, because no way was it in 2010 when this was released on the format. Horrible is an under statement for this film. In the opening when we see Chow Yun-Fat leaving the church, you think you'd be able to see his face as he walks towards the camera in this shot, but you can't even make out his face at all. Was that him? The details were so blocky and blurry that I'm unable to tell.
The grain is faked out like crazy to try to make this pass off as a decent film transfer. But the grain can't hide the macro-blocks that popped up on Chow Yun-Fat's face several times. If this was a real HD sourced transfer, it must have been made in the late 1990's, maybe around the time the film itself had turned ten years old. There's no way this was made in the 2000's. It's bad. There should be clarity; instead, white bleeds through the image like crazy and daytime scenes look disastrous to the eyes. 2/5
Hard Boiled is not as disastrous of a transfer. While this one is far from perfect, the action scenes are mostly preserved, especially most of the epic hospital shootout at the end. However, the image constantly wobbles in places. We also have a lot of print damage present throughout the film. Saturation and contrast is pretty strong.
When the presentation of Hard Boiled is nice and crystal clear, it's amazing. It's just a shame that Hard Boiled and The Killer could not get that five star treatment like they did when they were released by Criterion. These would have been excellent releases. But, at the end of the day, I give the transfer for Hard Boiled a 3.5/5.
Oddly, The Killer is presented in English and Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0. When you select the Chinese audio, the English subtitles are forced, and you cannot turn them on if you select English audio. The audio tracks are average. I prefered the sound of the Cantonese audio more than the English dubbing. Why we couldn't get this in DTS-HD MA is beyond me. 2.5/5.
Hard Boiled,unlike The Killer, is presented with English and Cantonese DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks on this disc. Just like the previous film, subtitles are forced on the Cantonese audio. Why you would force subtitles is idiotic to me. The audio is pretty sweet on this one. The music of the saxophone playing when Tony Leung enters the film and various explosions boom throughout; it's a shame The Killer couldn't get this treatment audio wise. 5/5.
This Blu-ray contains no extras.
Despite the horrible visual presentations, I felt this was worth the $17 I got it for. I am sure you can get the individual, domestic U.S. releases for about the same price I got this Canadian release for. These two films are classics. Just hope and pray that Criterion can get the rights back and do these films proper, especially The Killer. 3/5.