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Review The Prisoner a.k.a. Island on Fire a.k.a. Huo shao dao (1990): Prison drama meets Heroic Bloodshed!

genre: action, drama, bullet ballet, martial arts

The Prisoner is an unique film because it features the biggest stars like Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Andy Lau. They were called in as a favour to director Kevin chu. And it's one where Jackie Chan does things he really doesn't like. First I will give you my initial thoughts (which I had shared on my first IDMB account and then what I think of it now.

Not a typical Jackie Chan flick
The prisoner is a typical hongkong action movie, with great action but also with exaggerated drama and humour. But if you are a fan like me, you will get used to this if you watch a lot of them. The prisoner is a serious movie with some humour in it. It isn't a Jackie Chan movie, but it is a movie with Jackie Chan in it. A serious one, which we don't get to see very often . But in this he is great, especially at the end (Jackie a la John Woo).

As you can see I was pretty positive about this film. Am I still today? Yes. Apart from some flaws in how the story is set up and told, the film is quite good. I am not a huge fan of prison drama's since they are quite dark and depressing and this is no different.  Very brutal in it's depiction. However it was a change of pace to see Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung as prisoners. Jackie stays serious throughout but Sammo mixes that up with comedy in an incredibly entertaining way. In one scene particular he brings out the pervert in him but I do have to give credit to the direction for this remaining tasteful even when it looked like it was going to be one big sleaze fest.

One point of criticism is how this film is advertised. It was promoted as a Jackie Chan film and that creates some expectations. Like goofy comedy, insane stunt work and spectacular martial arts. While the action is top notch for sure it's nowhere near of what Jackie Chan would have provided back in the day. To most fans this was a huge disappointment. And yes I was among them however I also was heavy into heroic bloodshed and I loved every second of the final sequence. It made me overlook the fact that this wasn't a real Jackie Chan film. I still don't quite understand why Jackie Chan doesn't like doing Gun Fu. He is such a natural fit in the way he can move and sell the hard boiled look. But perhaps now when he gets too old to do his own stunts and acrobatics that he will be more willing to do Gun Combat. 

Last but not least, Tony Leung Ka-fai, who actually is the lead does a good job in portraying the horror he has to go through. He is trying to do good but goes from one bad situation to worse. But he is man on a mission and determined to serve justice.

Overall The Prisoner is quite a decent flick even today. Certainly worth a watch!

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