HK Cinema - 1987
Another HK director was to come into his own with
a film in 1987. Ringo Lam had started off doing TV in the 70’s and had
done a few films in the early 80’s. One of them was the fourth in the Aces
Go Places series. None of them had really made Ringo standout as a director
with a distinct style and vision.
Utilizing the skill and charisma of Chow Yun Fat
(they were to make five films together), Lam has certainly made a reputation
for himself. Though he is often compared to Woo (partly because they both
use Chow Yun Fat and have similar themes of honor and loyalty), Lam’s work
is much less romantic and much grittier in tone.
City on Fire is the story of an undercover
cop, CYF, who is put in a position where he has to betray the crook, Danny
Lee, that he has come to like and admire. It is much more of a character
driven plot than a typical Woo film. The film is almost more famous as
the film that Tarantino ripped off for Reservoir Dogs than for itself,
but it is one of the best cop films of the 1980’s.
Though they have nothing in common besides a core
of gritty realism, his next two films were also similarly named – School
on Fire and Prison on Fire. Both are harsh looks at these two institutions.
Some other excellent Lam films are Wild Search (with CYF and Cherie Chung),
Full Contact (as close to Woo as Lam ever comes) and Full Alert, another
cop film with the “new” Chow Yun Fat , Lau Ching-Wan. Lam has done the
Hollywood outing, but his film Maximum Risk fared poorly at the box office.