Director: Ringo Lam
Stars: Chow Yun-Fat, Anthony Wong, Simon Yam, Ann Bridgewater
Jeff (Chow) is a bouncer in a some kind of semi-classy Bangkok strip club, where his wife Mona (Bridgewater) dances. One night, he recieves word that his friend Sam (Wong) is being menaced by a local loan shark, Hung. It seems Sam can't pay back they money he borrowed for Jeff's mom's funeral and Hung wants it paid back in blood. Jeff saves Sam (in a cool sequence where Chow shows his profeciency with a butterfly knife), but they are now hunted men. In order to get the money to go back to Hong Kong, Jeff, Sam and another friend Chung agree to help out Sam's cousin Judge (Yam) in heisting some guns. However, it turns out that Hung paid off Judge to kill the trio.
He doesn't succeed, but Chung gets waxed and Judge manages to slice off two of Jeff's fingers before sending Sam into a house to finish him off. Sam's bullets miss their mark and Jeff manages to escape to a local monastery, where he trains his other hand to shoot and plans his revenge against Judge. Meanwhile, Sam joins up with Judge and shacks up with Mona. Upon returning to town, Jeff "convinces" Sam to help him and the two set about to steal Judge's arms cache, setting up the inevitable confrontation between Judge and Jeff.
Unlike many of Lam's other films (most notably the On Fire series), which were fairly realistic, Full Contact is a no-holds-barred gun-blazing action picture. While some of Lam's fans were turned off by this sudden turn in style, I enjoyed this film a lot. It's a great action movie; while it's very "Hollywood" in parts (Chow's character is almost custom made for someone like Bruce Willis), it still shows the inventiveness one would expect from a HK action movie (such as the shootout in a club where we see the battle from the bullets' point-of-view).
The acting is great all around. Chow breaks somewhat from his Mark Gor/John Woo (i.e., suave gangster) mold with the rough and tough Jeff. It's kind of a stock character, but Chow manages to give Jeff a lot of individuality, even down to small tics like licking his thumb (I know, it sounds strange, but it looks damn cool). Anthony Wong also breaks his usual dereanged/psychotic/hardass mold with the wimpy Sam. Even when he turns into a "bad" guy under Judge's control, you can still see the fear in his eyes. Simon Yam (who I really enjoyed in John Woo's excellent Bullet in the Head as well as many other roles) plays a great villain in the movie, alternating between super-cool and super-insane with chilling ability. There's been some stink made about the fact that Judge is gay, but I don't think it makes much difference. There is some sexual innuendo between him and Jeff and there are a couple of scenes of him playing around with his boyfriend, but unless you're a big homophobe, this shouldn't present any problem.
The only real problem in the film is the portrayal of women. In Full Contact, they seem to be just pieces of meat to be passed around. I'm no feminist, but the character of Virgin (one of Judge's sidekicks) is just, well, so ugly that it made me cringe. For instance, on the way to the arms heist, she plays around with Jeff's crotch and after he refuses her advances, commences to play with herself. This could have been done very sexy or played up for laughs, but instead it just feels and looks, for lack of a better word, dirty. Maybe this was Lam's intention. I don't know. Mona doesn't fare much better, as she plays the typical weak-willed dim-witted woman in distress, but the way she handles the triangle between herself, Jeff and Sam near the end of the film is commendable, even if she does spend most of her screen time dancing around in skimpy outfits.
As a side note, I must say that Full Contact has one of the best soundtracks I've heard on a HK film. It's full of great hard rock/metal/techno and fits the manic action of the film perfectly. Also, the film sports some great dialogue (or should I say "good" bad subtitling), like "Doing business is like s***ting...smoothness is most important" and Jeff's classic final insult to Judge "Well! Masturbate in Hell!".
Overall, Full Contact is a great action film that, for good or bad, was probably the reason Lam was invited to work in Hollywood. If you're looking for a gritty crime drama like City on Fire, then look elsewhere. But if you're looking for a kick-ass non-stop action movie then you should check out Full Contact.
Thanks to Chow Yun Fat Multimedia for this bit from Alan Tam's "This World is Insane" (Chow's "theme" in the movie) in WAV format. Click here to download it. (Note: as far as I know, there is no soundtrack for this film; the only way to get this song is to hunt down Alan Tam's 1992 album "Love Story", which was actually part of a 3-CD box set.)
Click here to download a clip (Thanks to Zine on Fire for the clip).
A review of the DVD for this movie can be found here
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