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Review City on Fire a.k.a. Lung foo fung wan (1987): He wishes but I won't do that!

genre: heroic bloodshed, crime, drama

An undercover cop reluctantly infiltrates a gang of thieves who plan to rob a jewellery store. And things don't work out as expected.

There were two reasons for me to check out this film once it appeared on my radar. My love for heroic bloodshed and the actor Chow Yun-Fat. After experiencing several titles, I just can't enough of it. In my never ending search for titles of the genre or similar, Ringo Lam pops up constantly. One of the main titles that gets mentioned is City on Fire. While it certainly contains many elements of that genre, the film itself does focus more on the drama and what Ko Chow (played by Chow Yun-Fat) has to go through. Chow really demonstrates the turmoil and struggles his character experiences. It is therefore pretty amazing that he still manages to function in the way he is expected to. Obviously, he is not without flaws, but you kind of understand where he is coming from. It's very possible that he is also suffering from PTSD. Even when they are criminals, he still bonds and forms relationships with them. And then to betray them for the sake of justice must have its toll. Danny Lee's character actually shows this in the scene when Chow admits he is a cop.

I liked how this film exposes you to several sides of the investigation concerning the robberies. It basically shows you there is good and bad on both sides and that it's a large grey area the people reside in. It doesn't go into depth. But there is enough there to outline the impossible predicament Chow finds himself in. He has our sympathy all the way. Honestly, that is not that hard. Even at his goofiest, the guy is ultra cool. There is a very good reason why the heroic bloodshed genre blew up as it did. He does seem more like a realistic person. Not someone who would shoot every chance he gets. It's quite the opposite. Almost every character in this film wants to prevent the violence, but find themselves in a situation they have no other choice but to resort to it. The action therefore is more gritty and brutal. Far less stylized than what John Woo did. But still better choreographed than what was shown in most Hollywood films at that time.

Overall, this is a very good crime drama where especially Chow Yun-Fat shows what he is made off.

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