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City On Fire Review

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Intrepid guilt ridden copper Ko Chow (Yun Fat) wants to get out of undercover work and get married, but his obsessive boss (Yueh) gets him to go after a gang who have carried out a series of violent jewel robberies.

★★★★

Years ago, Empire pointed out similarities between Reservoir Dogs and a then obscure Hong Kong crime movie City On Fire. With the belated British release of the 1987 film, audiences have a chance to see for themselves. You may, however, find the first hour of City surprising, in that it has no more in common with Dogs than it does with Deep Cover or White Heat.

The finale, however, is familiar: a raid, Ko gets gutshot, guns get pointed, accusations get hurled. With Yun Fat as Tim Roth, Lee takes Harvey Keitel's role and there are equivalents to Lawrence Tierney and Chris Penn as internal bleeding segues into a bullet festival.

Aside from the Dogs fuss, it's an impressive thriller that lays to rest the rumour that all Hong Kong has to offer is John Woo. Ringo Lam has a different, less cool, more frenetic style of gun-waving and betrayal, with more politicking on the part of the cops and crooks. If you're used to Yun Fat's calm in Woo movies, it's a revelation to see him here, hyperactive and neurotic.

In the end, Tarantino took no more from this than he did from The Killing, The Taking Of Pelham 123 and Day Of The Wolves (a real obscuro), but if hokey controversies are what it takes to get outstanding movies released, then it is important to note that French psycho movie 36:15 Code Pere Noel is an exact and superior template for Home Alone.

The quintessential undercover-cop/heist movie. Director Ringo Lam eschews the slow-mo John Woo clichés to deliver a film full of brutal realism, and a career-high performance from star Chow Yun-Fat.