Chow Time Again

John Woo's action classic hasn't been matched since.
John Woo's action classic hasn't been matched since.
Hard Boiled: Two-Disc Ultimate Edition (Weinstein)
The Criterion version of John Woo's masterpiece, about two cops (the overworked Chow Yun-Fat and the undercover Tony Leung) gunning for the Hong Kong Triads, is still the "ultimate" collection. It has a better commentary track (with Woo and Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary, among others) and better extras (a Woo student film and trailers for 12 of his pics, as opposed to a few talking-head shorts), and now sells for relatively little on eBay after once going for hundreds. But to own Hard Boiled in any incarnation is to own an essential action film -- the best of the 1990s, if rewatchability's any gauge. Everything before this looks flimsy; everything after, overheated. Woo fused Dirty Harry's deadpan cool with Asian cinema's almost comedic excitability, and nobody's made a better shoot-'em-up since. -- Robert Wilonsky

The Exterminating Angels (Weinstein)
Jean-Claude Brisseau might've named his X-rated apologia The Guy Can't Help It. Following sexual-harassment charges brought by actresses who auditioned for his near-porn epic Secret Things, Brisseau counters with the tale of a middle-aged director whose attempt to explore female sexuality on celluloid leads to police intervention and threats. But hey, don't blame him -- it's not his fault he unlocks the libidos of incredibly hot women, who just have to strip naked and masturbate for him. No, blame those two trouble-making angels watching his affairs, whose heavenly bodies seem to have slinked right out of Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" video. The movie is faintly ridiculous, completely daring, almost De Palma-esque in its mood of eroticized suspense, and sensationally arousing. -- Jim Ridley

Zodiac (Paramount)
This no-frills DVD is just a stopgap for a two-disc extended director's cut due next year. The good news: The theatrical version (to be available only on this disc) is a coldly absorbing true-crime drama -- the story of how San Francisco's infamous Zodiac killer sucked the fear-stricken city, the cops chasing him, and the reporters on his trail into a decade-long vortex of go-nowhere leads and conspiracy madness. Applying Super Seventies grit and some of the most textured nighttime shooting ever seen, director David Fincher steers a marvelous cast (including Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr.) down one dead end after another, producing a procedural that tunnels into a mountain of data and finds only darkness and empty hands. It'll leave you fidgety, frustrated, and thoroughly unsettled -- an approximation of how the real participants must have felt. -- Ridley

Les Enfants Terribles (Criterion)
A collaboration between director Jean-Pierre Melville and writer Jean Cocteau, who wrote the novel and screen adaptation, Les Enfants Terribles maintains its icky-funny vibe 57 years after its release. The story of a brother and sister hermetically self-sealed in their art-directed bedroom, it's also one big game -- for the incestuous siblings and the bystanders who plunge into their web, and for a filmmaker intoxicated by claustrophobia. It's even funnier for its use of two actors (Nicole Stéphane as Elisabeth and Edouard Dermithe as Paul) who look like thirtysomethings playing boarding-school-age kids. This being Criterion, of course, the extras will satisfy -- especially the 2003 short about Cocteau and Melville, which suggests a relationship as twisted as that of Lis and Paul. -- Wilonsky