Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 12th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1988
Director: Chung Sun
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Lung Ti, Tsui Siu-Keung, Danny Lee, Lieh Lo,
DVD Released: April 27th, 1999
Approximate Running Time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo
DVD Release: Universe Laser
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
Ken (Lung Ti), is a veteran police officer with a short temper and right off the bat we are witness to his lack of control. Ken Has chased a shoplifting suspect into a restaurant and when the suspect takes a woman hostage Dick Lee (Chow Yun-Fat), is called into negotiate. When Ted (Tsui Siu-Keung), a criminal Ken help capture is released from jail 10 years later. Ted hasn’t forgot about Ken and he won’t stop tell he has taken his revenge. Things heat up when Ted sends some hit men to ken house to take him and his family out. After the murder of his family Ken with the help of Dick exact their own revenge in a John Woo like shootout.
By the late 1980’s Heroic Bloodshed films had invaded the Hong Kong film industry with there no holds bared gun fights while unleashing an opera of violence that was more poetic then brutal. Chow Yun-Fat’s career was going nowhere until he made a Better Tomorrow with another Hong Kong filmmaker whose career had all but dried up John Woo. City War is one of many Heroic Bloodshed films Chow Yun-Fat made outside of his more famous collaborations with John Woo and City War also stars Danny Lee who has also made his fare share of Heroic Bloodshed films. Chung Sun director of City War is most famous for his work with the Shaw Brothers in the 1970’s and early 1980’s on such films like The Sexy Killer and Human Lanterns.
City War moves along at a nice pace as the first have of the movie is more drama driven. While the second half of the film is an adrenaline ride filled with bloody gun fights and the climatic showdown in the bus terminal is wonderfully executed ranking up there as one of Hong Kong cinema’s better shootouts. The teaming up of Chow Yun-Fat and Lung Ti in City War is strongest assets as the make a great duo. Chung Sun direction is satisfactory and he just seems to be going through the motions as he offers nothing we haven’t seen before in a Heroic Bloodshed film. City War isn’t one of the best the Heroic Bloodshed genre has to offer still it is far from the worst. It is just an average film from an uninspired director with some strong performances from Chow Yun-Fat and Lung Ti.
City War is presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. The transfer like many films that have come out Hong Kong exhibits some ware and tare throughout the print used. The colors fluctuate from natural to mute and there is some color bleeding more noticeable in a few of the darker scenes. Flesh tones for the most part appear accurate throughout, still the transfer overall is a little to soft as even darker colors are to bright.
There are two audio options present on City War Cantonese and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo. 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 bios and filmographies for Lung and Yun Fat, as well as trailers for City War and The Postman Strikes Back. Nothing special in the extras department this DVD is basically a barebones affair.
City War is highly entertaining film that has some wonderful performances and moments, still it comes up short compared to other Heroic Bloodshed films from the era. If you are just getting into Heroic Bloodshed films I recommend you rent City War, while hardcore Chow Yun-Fat fans will want to watch City War more then once.