As anyone who's seen it knows, Hard Boiled is a pretty amazing action flick—arguably John Woo's best, it's packed with enough blistering explosions and searing bullets to fill 20 less impressive action films. But frustratingly, Hard Boiled has also been hard to find on American DVD shelves. Until Dragon Dynasty.
It's not often that a DVD label is worth singling out. But such is the case with Dragon Dynasty, an imprint specializing in Asian action flicks that was founded last year by the Weinstein Company (dragondynasty.com). Hard Boiled is one of the line's flagship titles, but there are others: Tony Jaa's The Protector, Jackie Chan's Police Story flicks, and the excellent Infernal Affairs trilogy (now famous as the basis for Scorcese's The Departed). All are films that normally wouldn't get an American DVD release—but thanks to some impressive efforts from Dragon Dynasty, fans of Asian action films are no longer forced to scour eBay for region-free, special feature-less bootlegs.
Three titles are most indicative of the imprint: Hard Boiled (1992), the kung fu classic The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978), and 2006's The City of Violence. Hard Boiled still holds up, as punctuated by Chow Yun-Fat's classic performance as a detective with chronically itchy trigger fingers. 36th Chamber might not be as well known, but it's one of the best and coolest kung fu flicks ever made, featuring a young Gordon Liu (who'd go on to play a few roles in Tarantino's Kill Bill films). And then there's the fun The City of Violence, Ryoo Seung-Wan's stylish revenge epic.
Not all of Dragon Dynasty's releases are as impressive (witness the painful direct-to-DVD-ness of 2005's Dragon Heat, produced by Steven Seagal and starring B-listers Sammo Hung and Michael Biehn). But the above titles—and otherwise forgotten films like Woo's Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1993), Tsui Hark's Seven Swords (2005), and Chan's Crime Story (1993)—cement the Weinstein Company's label as something well worth supporting. Dragon Dynasty is merely filling a niche, yes—but it's a niche that's needed filling for too long.