How Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch Heavily Inspired John Woo's Hard Boiled

No matter how action films evolve over the years, John Woo remains one of the most influential directors of his generation. The genre wouldn't be what it is today without Woo's elegiac, balletic action sequences, his inventive (not to mention bombastic) use of gunplay, and of course his penchant for slow motion. But Woo's signature style wasn't born in a vacuum. The director has always worn his influences enthusiastically on his sleeve — and endearingly, Woo takes influence from anything he can. When recording commentary for his 1992 hit "Hard-Boiled," Woo admitted that he tries "to get something from everything" he sees. It could be a classical movement from a composer like Richard Wagner, a painting by Van Gogh, or a Bugs Bunny cartoon — in some way, they'll end up informing his work.

Woo also draws steady inspiration from two classic genres: the musicals of Hollywood's Golden Age, and the pulpy Westerns that dominated the '60s. Director Sam Peckinpah has notably informed so much of Woo's style, and Woo has always been outspoken about his love for the director's work, particularly when it comes to his most famous film, "The Wild Bunch." To say that it made a splash upon its 1969 is something of an understatement: like the gutsy "Bonnie & Clyde," which predates "The Wild Bunch" by two years, Peckinpah's western is packed to the gills with blood, gore, and glory — and it proved that not every "hero" survives at the end of the story. Woo, of course, borrowed that conceit for the majority of his films, but he also used "Hard-Boiled" to make a subtler homage to "The Wild Bunch."

One tequila, two tequila

Woo's "Hard-Boiled" follows Chow Yun-fat as Inspector "Tequila" Yeun, a man on a mission after his partner is killed in a shootout. He joins forces with an undercover cop (played brilliantly, as always, by Tony Leung) to destroy the murderers by any means necessary. The film shares Peckinpah's textbook exploration of brotherhood and the cycle of violence for sure, but Woo also lifted Inspector Yeun's moniker right from a scene in "The Wild Bunch."

The scene in question takes place as the titular Bunch (led by William Holden as Pike Bishop) resolves to rescue one of their own from the crooked General Mapache (Emilio Fernández). While holed up in a brothel, and finishing off a bottle of tequila, Bishop makes the decision that will preclude the film's final bloody shootout. It's indicative of his loyalty to his friends, and according to Woo's "Hard-Boiled" commentary, it directly inspired his choice to name Chow's character "Tequila."

Of course, that's not where Peckinah's influence ends by any means. Woo also took a page from the late director's use of multiple cameras — running at multiple frame rates — for action sequences. Peckinpah would often incorporate slow-motion in those scenes, even juxtaposing the longer takes with cuts less than a second long. It's just one thing that Woo borrowed from the director, and notably made his own in a way that inspired many directors after him.