Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 13th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, February 1987
Director: Ringo Lam
Writers: Ringo Lam, Tommy Sham
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Danny Lee, Yueh Sun, Carrie Ng
DVD Released:October 27th, 1998
Approximate Running Time: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin
Subtitles: Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Bahasa, Thai, Vietnamese
DVD Release: Universe Laser
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: When an undercover agent with evidence that could lead to the arrest of a group of jewelry thieves is murder while trying to contact his superior Ko Chow (Chow Yun-Fat), is brought in reluctantly. Ko wants to marry his long time girlfriend Huong (Carrie Ng), but is forced to wait because of his latest assignment which only pushes her farther away. Ko poses as an arms dealer and he becomes friends with Fu (Danny Lee), the group of jewel thief’s accept him and ask him join in on their next job. After a botched jewel heist Ko starts to lose his way as he begins to sympathize with Fu.
Ringo Lam may not be as well know John Woo in America His films since coming to Hollywood have been varied failing to live up to his Hong Kong films, still most of us have seen some of his Hollywood films like Maximum Risk and In Hell. Lam like most directors from Hong Kong their films haven’t translated to well to American as the Hollywood system dilutes their visions until they are no longer recognizable. In City on Fire Lam teams up once again with Chow Yun-fat who he had worked with before on Full Contact, Prison on Fire and Prison on Fire 2. Quentin Tarentino was heavily influenced by City on Fire using a few of the films elements in his film Resevoir Dogs.
Chow Yun-Fat is mesmerizing in City on Fire as he covers a wide range of emotions and he is obvious comfortable in Ko Chow skin as he effortlessly captures the characters essence. Danny Lee is also very good and he perfectly helps balance the relationship between his character Fu and Chow Yun-Fats Ko Chow. They make a great team and one of City on Fire’s strongest attributes is the interaction between their two characters. Screenwriters Tommy Sham’s contribution to City on Fire is often overlooked even though his script is filled with intriguing characters and plot that is a notch above most films in this genre. It is a shame that he didn’t write more Heroic Bloodshed scripts instead of writing primarily with in comedies and martial arts genre’s. Ringo Lam also co-wrote the script he direction in City on Fire excellent as scenes move along as a nice pace. Lam is more interested in showing his audience the relationship between the characters.
There are plenty of action set pieces that are always exciting as Ringo Lam builds tension up to a fever pitch. Teddy Robin Kwan’s unforgettable jazzy score the features prominently a saxophone and electric piano weeps in the background that lends itself flawlessly to Lam’s Vision. City on Fire came at the beginning of the Heroic Bloodshed genre and Lam injects fresh ideas into the formula without ever becoming to stale something that plagues many films the came later near the end of this genre’s popularity.
City on Fire is presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio and it would have benefited from an anamorphic enhancement. The colors for the most part are accurate; still they lack the clarity of City on Fire’s region 1 release from Beuna Vista. The source print has scratches and other debris, but nothing that is ever to distracting. Overall the transfer is one of the better ones I have seen so far from Universe Laser, still this film is in need of a restoration.
There are two audio options present on City on Fire, Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese and Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin. Overall the track is mainly center based and the surrounds used mostly for ambient noise and the score. For the most part both audio tracks are clean and free of noise. The English subtitles are easy to read and follow; still there are a few grammatical errors. Other subtitles options include Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Bahasa, Thai, and Vietnamese.
Extras include City on Fire’s trailer as well as trailers for Prison on Fire, Prison of Fire 2 and All about Ah Long. Other extras include bios and filmographies for Chow Yun-Fat, Danny Lee and Ringo Lam. Overall City on Fire is one of best films to come out of Hong Kong’s Heroic Bloodshed genre. It doesn’t matter if you are fan of these types of films or new to this Genre City on Fire is essential viewing that should be in everyone’s collection.