City on Fire

City on Fire


Director: Ringo Lam

Stars: Chow Yun-Fat, Danny Lee

A reluctant undercover cop (Chow) is forced to complete one last job -- infiltrate a gang of jewel thieves led by Lee. Things get complicated when the cop and criminal become friends as they head off to pull the gang's biggest job ever.

City on Fire is probably most famous in the West as the movie that provided some of the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Some people have said that Reservoir Dogs is a total rip-off of City on Fire, but really Reservoir Dogs only shares some similarities with the last 15-20 minutes of City on Fire (only one shot in Reservoir Dogs is totally swiped, where Mr. White blasts the cop car). Unlike the fast-talking, pop-culture referencing gangsters of Reservoir Dogs, the characters in City on Fire are somber and serious. Even though there is some comic relief when Chow tries to sweet-talk his girlfriend, the movie (like many of Ringo Lam's other films) has a dark and bleak tone to it. Most of the action in the movie occurs not through the use of guns (though the finale has its share of bloodshed), but from the confrontations between Chow and the various people in his life (as well as his own inner demons).

A good film probably worth watching (for US fans, at least) for the curiosity factor alone. It's a well-made police/gangster drama that set the tone for many films that followed it -- it's just too bad that it hasn't aged as well as some of Ringo Lam's other work, though it still provides a good night's entertainment.


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