City on Fire (1987)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Gangster Film  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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This early, breakout effort by director Ringo Lam strives to accomplish quite a bit on its low budget and short shooting schedule. Lam should have spent more time and money; the result is a Hong Kong police actioner that barely measures up to standard episodic television fare. Brief car chases that end with fiery crashes, a couple of abbreviated fistfights and one or two shootouts leave one longing for something more kinetic to connect with. Turning to the story, we find resigned and disgraced police detective Chow (Chow Yun-Fat) brought back to the force to infiltrate a jewel-stealing gang headed by Fu (Danny Lee), perhaps the most non-threatening uber-villain imaginable. Chow also has to deal with a disintegrating romantic relationship with Huong (Carrie Ng), but from appearances, he's better off without such a high-maintenance, prone-to-violence, schizoid girlfriend. How this disappointing film, in which character is delineated by how one smokes (and everyone smokes, a lot), won Lam the 1987 HK Film Awards Best Director trophy is beyond imagination. The Mexican standoff near the end, where everyone points a gun at someone else at close range, is the most obvious borrowing by Quentin Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs, but how that standoff ends is as lame as the rest of the film. For undemanding Hong Kong fans only.