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City on Fire (1979)


Plot: Resigning undercover cop – Ko Chow (Chow Yun-Fat) plans resigning are shattered when brought into the station to have a meeting with his boss, Lau (Yueh Sun). Lau tells him that has one job left to do before leaving the force. The job is to infiltrate a violent gang of jewelery thieves, to gain their trust he must pass himself off as a gun dealer, selling weapons to the gang and then work his way into the gang participating in their next heist.

Ko Chow befriends on of the gangs main men – Fu (Danny Lee), both having similar backgrounds they create a decent friendship between them. But Ko Chow is haunted by past missions when one of his best friends were killed because of him. Ko doesn’t want the same thing to happen twice.

Review: Ringo Lam delivers a dark and gritty crime thriller which shows Chow Yun-Fat in a different light from the traditional John Woo duel gun waving savior. Instead Ringo Lam shows the more human side of Chow Yun-Fat, his fragile relationship with his on-screen girlfriend Carrie Ng and brother like relationship with Danny Lee.

It also has a bit of role-reversal too, Chow Yun-Fat is often portrayed as the gang and Danny Lee is often type-casted as a serious Police Officer. It’s the other way around here, but some times during the film if you look at Danny Lee’s costumes he does actually still look like a cop! They should have given him a beard or a scar, something just to make him look rougher.

Another storyline in the movie is about ‘Lau’, played by the Yueh Sun. His character finds himself teamed up with a younger and wise-assed CID Officer Chan, played by a young Roy Cheung. Chan and his crew of officers are basically out to catch Chow Yun-Fat, refusing to believe that he is an Undercover Cop, they are really just wanting to blow his cover and have him killed.

This film does have a quite a reputation around the world as ‘The original inspiration for Tarantino’s break-out masterpiece, Reservoir Dogs’, so many people over the Internet on chat-rooms bash Reservoir Dogs as a remake of City on Fire, but they are all just blow off steam over nothing.

I haven’t seen Reservoir Dogs, but I plan on watching soon, so I can’t say it is or it isn’t but Tarantino is the type of person who has a over-whelming love for Asian cinema, obviously lots of these movies inspired him in his future productions, from most of the Tarantino films I’ve seen there has always been a subtle message relating to Asian cinema, then he made the Kill Bill movies which is his homage to the wonderful world of Asian Cinema.

Notable appearances, well I couldn’t notice any really familiar faces in the movie, apart from the leading cast. Ringo Lam does have 5 seconds of screen time at one part where he lights Chow Yun-Fats cigarette for him on a street corner. Tommy Wong plays one of Roy Cheung’s police officers, he’s the officer that gets kick down the stair case and then comes in the back wrapped in bandages.

Final thoughts, a great crime thriller and bloody good film!

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