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#41 City on Fire

From Blogger

Recently, I stumbled upon this list of the 100 Greatest Hong Kong Films. I've been a fan of Hong Kong cinema since the mid-1980s, when I discovered the section of martial arts movies at my local video store where I was dazzled by the films of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. In the last few years, I've again been watching the movies that are made in the Hong Kong industry and many of my very favorite filmmakers have multiple films on the above linked list. And while I've seen many films from Johnny To, John Woo, Yuen Woo-Ping, Stephen Chow, Tsui Hark, and Wong Kar Wei there are still several of their films that I still haven't taken the time to watch. In addition, I still haven't seen much at all by Fruit Chan or very many HK movies that aren't genre films. So, I plan to use this list as a guide to try to broaden my knowledge of Chinese cinema.

We started with City on Fire, the film from Ringo Lam that was the inspiration for Reservoir Dogs. Ko Chow (Chow Yun Fat) is an undercover cop who in infiltrating a group of jewel thieves. And while I immediately appreciated that many of the plot points from the second half of the film along with one of the shots were lifted for Tarantino's film, City on Fire really only appeared important for the establishment of several action tropes that I have seen used numerous times in more recent films; the lack of any uncomplicated heroes, the Mexican stand-off, the bullet riddled walls creating dozens of pin-points of light, and the final death of the protagonist. How the plot actually unraveled appeared simplistic and even a bit jokey and heavy handed.

But then, I discovered to my annoyance that this may be due to seeing the Dimension, US release. Sadly, it was dubbed and while the dubbing was better than average, this results in the dialog being simplified. Also, there were quite a few bizarre jokes and puns that apparently were added to this version. And the entire soundtrack is changed for the US release, which can have a huge impact on the atmosphere and tone of a film. Therefore, much of what I was interpreting as being bizarrely comedic elements, were most likely not in the original release. Granted, some of them are, as I'm slowly becoming accustomed to Chow Yun Fat's screen personae being comedic after having seen him a a few comedies. Oddly, he manages to juggle being goofy and cool.

So, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to re-watch this one in the future once I find a better version. Could be fun to do a comparison with Reservoir Dogs as that is probably the one Tarantino movie that I've only watched a couple of times. It is so irritating to forget to closely scrutinize the version of the movie when renting.


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