City On Fire


Yun-Fat Chow won best actor for his performance at the Hong Kong Film Awards whilst Ringo Lam won Best Director.

More Trivia from City On Fire
First things last: Yes, this is that "City On Fire", the one which Quentin Tarantino used as a template for "Reservoir Dogs".

But what Tarantino did with hard-noir dialogue and references to pop-culture, Lam does with subtle gestures and brooding pathos...

In short: it's practically a different movie.

QT used the suits from "A Better Tomorrow II" and the basic premise from this film, and though Harvey Kietel's nod to the two-guns action of Chow Yun Fat is practically a straight-faced steal, "Reservoir Dogs" is to "City on Fire" what "Little Caesar" was to "The Public Enemy".

Both are great movies, and though this came first, I still find myself watching 'Reservoir...' a little more often.

Chow Yun Fat plays Chow (must've taken the scriptwriter ages to come up with that!), the role played by Tim Roth in 'Reservoir...' Chow's an undercover cop, whose out to nail a gang of jewel thieves (where's John Malkovich?!) who are planning to rob a bank. He becomes a solid member of the gang and ingratiates himself with the other pros, forming an inevitably futile, but strong friendship with Danny Lee, (who'd work with Fat again in John Woo's classic 'The Killer').

But when the heist goes awry, Chow takes a bullet in the stomach, panic ensues and guns blaze across the crowded streets of Hong Kong; in the mad dash to make a run for it, accusations are thrown back and forth, mistrust settles in and as an army of cops mount outside the gang's hideout, the Mexican standoff from 'Reservoir...' is played out verbatum by the crims.

City on Fire's original, eastern title is "Long hu feng yun"


Lam's directing is excellent, showing both the driven and calculated violence of the thieves whilst also conveying their sense of selective values and the fact that some of them are just normal people. The shot where Chow Yun Fat is slammed headfirst onto the concrete floor is quick, and sickeningly effective.

I guarantee you'll be holding your own head in pained empathy when you see that, the heist itself is handled quite well, whilst the bullet holed beams of light which flood into the warehouse are superbly filmed, so much so, that Robert Rodriguez adapted it as part of the ending in 'From Dusk Till Dawn'.

This is a good movie, with some fine acting from Chow Yun Fat, it's not as action packed as some of his John Woo films, but as an edgy, character driven thriller, 'City On Fire' works quite well. See it for the acting.

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: Realistic acting, good cinematography and direction.

Weaknesses? You keep on thinking about Reservoir Dogs when you're watching it.

Our rating: 8 out of 10

Review Written by Kashif Ahmed:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Kashif Ahmed
City On Fire