Hard Boiled II: The Last Blood [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - 88 Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (18th October 2023).
The Film

The Tibetan Daka Lama (Prison on Fire's Law Shu-Kei) is set to visit Singapore for the twenty-fifth Singapore National Day to spread a message of piece. Unfortunately, the government has intelligence that he has a one hundred million dollar bounty on his head and the Japanese Red Army are planning to assassinate him. Hong Kong security expert Lui Tai (Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars' Alan Tam) teams him with local detective Stone (Tiger Cage's Leung Kar-Yan) and arranges a surprise raid on the Japanese Red Army secret headquarters; however, leaders Kamakura (Peace Hotel's Chin Ho) – patterned after Black Rain's Koji Sato and introduced in a Die Hard 2 naked training montage – and Saburro (Fist of Legend's Jackson Lau) manage to escape, and they do not know how many more JRA operatives are in the area.

The security team fails to prevent an assassination attempt upon the Daka Lama's arrival at the airport and the old man is wounded along with the girlfriend (The Seventh Curse's Chui Sau-Lai) of vacationing low-tier gangster Big B. (Infernal Affairs' Andy Lau). The two wounded are rushed to the hospital where the doctors learn that they have the same rare blood type, and that there are only a few people in Singapore that share it. While Lui Tai and Stone attempt to track them down, Big B. strikes off on his own with the concern that his girlfriend will not receive equal treatment to the Daka Lama. As the three men repeatedly fail to get to each of the donors before they are assassinated by Japanese Red Army operatives, Lui Tai and Stone suspect a mole in their unit. Big B. beats them to the final donor, gambling mama's boy Fatty (Millionaires' Express's Eric Tsang). Sensing his importance in the situation, Fatty wants to profit from his donation despite the feelings of childhood crush Ling (Lady Supercop's May Lo); however, the pair soon end up running for their lives and uncertain whether to trust Big B. or Lui Tai and Stone. By the time Fatty has lost enough that he is willing to make a noble sacrifice, the terrorists have also decided they have nothing to lose but to wage a full-scale attack on the hospital, and the only person able to operate is unreliable Dr. Ferrari (Royal Tramp's Nat Chan)..

Although its onscreen English title is "Last Blood", the film acquired the moniker Hard Boiled II: The Last Blood through its U.K. video release. Of course, it has nothing to do with the John Woo film; and, in spite of some large scale action sequences and a shocking disregard for human life with a bigger body count of bystanders than the gun play set-pieces of In the Line of Duty III, it otherwise feels slapped together more so than the usual effort from commercial-minded Wong Jing (God of Gamblers). The opening text crawl about scattered and widespread terror targets in the wake of the Gulf War is just as nonsensical as the contrived mystical connection between the Daka Lama and Big B.'s girlfriend. The exposition is painful and brings the film to a halt between action sequences, singer Tam's hero is bland and Lau's gangster is more annoying than charismatic, with every interaction contrived to bring them to a not-very-compelling "isn't it about time we started to work together" standoff as they point guns in each others faces (for once, Tsang's "fatty" character is the least annoying of the male leads).

Character bits like Lau Tai's dislike of other people swearing are stressed to the point that you know he is going to finally snap in the climax, and the female characters are merely functional characters to be wounded or killed for dramatic effect (along with children and the disabled). With Hong Kong cinema of the eighties and nineties, and Wong Jing films in particular, one can expect bad taste, including a throwaway AIDS joke or two – the only funny bit involves a bit of Spanish-language vulgarity mistaken for a greeting – indeed, audiences unfamiliar with Wong Jing's films may be shocked to discover half-way through the film with the introduction of Tsang that this is supposed to be an action comedy rather than just a bland action film. If not for the scale of the action sequences and the Asian cast, it would be hard to distinguish Hard Boiled II: The Last Blood from the worst of the action flicks coming out of the United States and Italy during the last gasps of the video rental market boom.


Released direct to videotape in the U.S. (presumably sourced from the dual-language subtitled Hong Kong laserdisc master) and the U.K. (which may or may not be the export version) – the Eastern Heroes release being the source of the John Woo-adjacent retitle – Hard Boiled II: The Last Blood had two English-subtitled Hong Kong DVD releases (letterboxed and anamorphic) while the English dub turned up on DVD releases in Australia and Germany. The Movie Impact Limited library was acquired by Media Asia, and it seems that no all of the films had ideal materials since 88 Films' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC widescreen Blu-ray is only described as a "High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray™ presentation in 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio" and it is hard to tell how much of the film's look is due to the film's cheapness and the available materials. The opening credits opticals look grainy and thick as expected, but the white end credits are at time hard to read; indeed, detail seems to be lost in the bright highlights which bloom in long shots (look at Stone's jacket during the airport sequence). There are some scenes that employ yellow filters in front of the lens to give a dusk look that just looks sickly yellow and may or may not have been diluted from something warmer by the digital grading's attempt to get true whites in other areas. It may just be an ugly film, but the materials certainly were not first generation (compared to the 88 Films' concurrent pristine transfer of Wong Jing's Magic Crystal).


Audio options include Cantonese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 original mono tracks. The Cantonese track – on which a few of the principals dub themselves – sounds clean enough with reasonable presence in the synth scoring and upmh in the gunfire and explosions; however, the English dub is not only badly-acted but sounds rather flat, like a digitized and hiss-reduced within-in-an-inch-of-its-life VHS track (according to forum member Scott_Napier who worked on the disc's audio, the track came from the Australian DVD; so, while some corrections were made to synchronize it to the HD master, it was a lossy source that also underwent some additional digital conversion for tempo and pitch correction). While the English dubbers seem to be solely concerned with matching the actors' mouth movements, the Cantonese track at least sounds impassioned (perhaps more than the film's drama actually deserves). English subtitles are provided for the Cantonese audio and English SDH subtitles (also for the Cantonese track rather than the English dub), and they are switchable via remote or pop-up menu, allowing one to observe the differences between the tracks.


The film is accompanied by an audio commentary by Hong Kong film expert Frank Djeng and John Charles, author of "The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977-1997" – the latter is not mentioned on the cover or menu but is introduced right away by Djeng – in which they make note of the many in-jokes and pop culture references: Lui Tai says people mistake him for "Robert Redford" on the English dub and for "Alan Tam" on the Cantonese track while Fatty tries to pay off his debts hocking fake celebrity merchandise including "Leslie Cheung's girdle" in reference to his iconic role in Farewell My Concubine. They note that although Tam had appeared in other action comedy films like Armour of God, audiences were still used to seeing him in romance and comedies and burst into laughter when they saw him fighting in the film's first action sequence. They also not that the film was entirely shot in Singapore, where it was possible to clear the streets to film large scale action sequences unlike metropolitan Hong Kong. Djeng also reveals that Rick Baker of Eastern Heroes told him that John Woo personally approved their choice to give the film the "Hard Boiled II" title on U.K. video.

The disc also includes the film's English export trailer (3:38), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (4:12), and a stills gallery (2:19).


The disc is housed with a reversible cover with new design by Sean Longmore and original Hong Kong Art while the first pressing includes a handsome double-walled matte-finish O-ring slipcover (totally deserving of a better film) featuring new artwork by Sean Longmore, as well as a double-sided foldout poster.


In spite of some large scale action sequences and a shocking disregard for human life, Wong Jing's Hard Boiled II: The Last Blood feels slapped together and is more tasteless than funny.


Rewind DVDCompare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, amazon.de, amazon.it and amazon.es . As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.