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城市特警 (1988)
The Big Heat

Reviewed by: Beat TG
Date: 10/23/2008
Summary: Good stuff

Tense and quite gritty for an 80s HK crime movie and that's a great thing, that it's going away from John Woo and any of the wannabe productions that was to be followed during the boom. Plot and character development are very simple, economical and so is the mood which is maintained throughout and it stays where it should be instead of dramatizing events and letting the story go wild on stuff. Other good things includes the music that consists of trumpets and drums and plays to the effect of emphasizing the tone on the right spot and at the right moment (for example during intense dramatic events or during action scenes), the acting where there aren't times when either any of the main actors (Waise Lee, Philip Kwok, Paul Chu Kong and two others whose names I don't know) overdo their performances and affect them to the point of awkwardness, and the action that is very well executed and creative (for its time).

I've been reading and hearing lots of rumors of how things went during shooting of the movie, which is interesting. Johnnie To (who shot his first action/crime movie with this movie) and Andrew Kam apparently shot most of the stuff but later got fired and Tsui Hark (who was the producer) took over the set and finished the rest himself. It's funny, because I still see signatures (red lighting, steamy locations etc) here and there that Johnnie To would use in his later works. Whatever, who cares. Collaborative folks did great in the end, and that's what counts. But still, that's where the big flaw is; that several directors shot their stuff and in the process they didn't get along and the result became so messy and decisions gave a slight suffering result of unevenness. I'll give enough credit though because it's not an ordinary crime movie and it features a very imaginative storytelling.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 04/03/2007
Summary: enjoyable.

Tsui Hark's Film Workshop was working at a very high level in 1986 through 1988, even before it reached its peak with The Killer in '89. Waise Lee Chi-Hung stars as a cop with some serious disabilities. Hard-edged violence seeps from heavy-handed melodrama to keep things interesting. Paul Chu Kong and Stuart Ong steal the show as the nasty bad guys.

Producer Hark gives Andrew Kam Yeung-Wa, his assistant director from Peking Opera Blues, a chance to share the big director chair with hired hand Johnnie To Kei-Fung. They handle the directing chores with a competence that makes this an enjoyable viewing experience.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 03/20/2007
Summary: blood and bones...

wong (waise lee) is about to hand in his resignation and settle down with maggie (betty mak); a spinal defect has been causing the deterioration of the nerves in his hand and wong wants to call it quits, before he can no longer pull a trigger. however, when wong hears about the murder of his old partner, he postpones his retirement from the hong kong police.

it seems as if wong's old partner was involved with in a plot to blackmail a successful business man, ho ka-nin (stuart ong), who is connected to han ching (paul chu), a powerful and ruthless smuggler. wong, lun (matthew wong), kam (philip kwok) and ong (lo ging-wa) set out to investigate ho and han, but soon find that they are being investigated as well...

produced by tsui hark, written by gordon chan and co-directed by johnnie to, 'the big heat' sits in the middle of late-eighties, ballistic heavy, hong kong cop actioners. it is, in essence, another example of a gritty drama, where the criminals seem bigger than the law and the cops seem to be restricted by it. still, it's particularly full on approach, packed with broken bones, buckets of blood and a barrage of bullets, make it highly entertaining viewing.

a good, solid, genuinely exciting, action thriller.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/24/2007
Summary: 9/10 - nearly a classic

Tsui Hark produces and Johnnie To directs this classic tale of hard-boiled cops and powerful criminals who might be above the law, but aren't above justice (Hong Kong style).

Waise Lee plays the detective who wants to crack the proverbial 'one last case' before retirement, with Wong Hin-Mung as the rookie with a weak stomach and admirable support from Phillip Kwok and Lo Ging-Wa as the ice-cool action cops with an unspoken respect and affection under the competitive appearance of their relationship. Paul Chu Kong is truly fearsome as the ruthless villain, and Joey Wang is... cute as a chipmunk (sorry, but she really does look like one - she must never have babies with Donnie Yen!).

The film opens with a shocking image of a power drill piercing a hand, in quite convincing detail. It's just a nightmare/metaphor for Waise Lee's nerve condition, but it sets the tone for the film effectively - one of the most violent and cynical films Hong Kong has produced. It's reminiscent in more ways than one of the recent SPL, and the appropriation of the name from Fritz Lang's at-the-time-shocking noir is... appropriate. The film is quite openly influenced by Robocop too, with several moments of violence essentially stolen from Verhoeven's still-shocking work. This is mostly at the start of the film... as it progresses it shifts more towards Hong Kong style gunplay action in the John Woo style, but never gives up on its mission to up the ante for violence. There is some fantastic gunplay in the film, grittier and less stylised than Woo's, but just as 'ballistic'.

The film is just as intense in its narrative and atmosphere as in the action, genuinely 'thrilling' and dark as it sucks you into the characters' situation, making you care for the relatively-good guys and despise the undeniably-bad guys. There's very little 'fluff' or wasted screen time (Tsui Hark's tacked on cameo at the end being the major exception!).

I first saw the film years ago - one of the first DVDs I imported when I joined the digital world, as it happens. I wasn't all that impressed at the time, though the level of violence/gore definitely stuck in my head. I hadn't re-watched it until this very night, on the new DVD from Joy Sales. Maybe it's the anamorphic presentation (even though it's not 'remastered'), maybe it's the retranslated subtitles, or maybe it's just that they didn't screw around with the audio to make it 5.1 (can't remember how bad the old Megastar DVD was in that respect, but their record was not good)... maybe I'm just older and wiser now. Whatever the reason, I am sure I appreciated THE BIG HEAT much more on this viewing. Waise Lee is still a terrible actor, even in this (one of his best efforts), but the film is so intense and uncompromising that he can't destroy it. If Chow Yun-Fat had been free (and affordable) there is no doubt in my mind that this would be held up as one of the all-time classics of HK Cinema's 'Golden Age'. My new evaluation is that it comes pretty darn close anyway.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 02/04/2007

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

This rarely seen actioner makes John Woo look like a model ofrestraint. Impossibly over-the-top in just about every way, the film simply refuses to look away from even the most gruesome mayhem. Heads fly, bones snap and explode, a man is mulched by speeding traffic, dozens of innocent bystanders are machine-gunned just to get them out of the way. The story pits Inspector Wong (Waise Lee, also seen in A Better Tomorrow and Bullet In The Head) against a drug smuggling ring as his last case before a forced retirement due to nerve damage in his hand. Bitter, racked with pain, and attacked by nightmares, the ferocity with which he tackles the case is astonishing, and the film matches his rage note for note.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 02/04/2007

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 12/09/1999

The first thing that needs to be said is that the first review is a huge exagerration. The film does have a number of gruesome parts, but they are all either very brief or shot very discreetly. With that out of the way, I'd recommend this movie to anyone who likes Hong Kong's "police procedural" genre. While it is not exceptionally action-packed, it moves along at a very good pace and is consistently interesting and exciting. The cast is pretty good, too, featuring a number of familiar names but no screen-hogging mega-stars.

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 02/04/2007

Reviewed by: jfierro
Date: 12/21/1999

So bad it's almost funny. Typical of the over-the-top films that came out after A BETTER TOMORROW, trying to emulate its explicit action scenes. Waise Lee plays a cop who plans on retiring due to a worsening physical condition until he finds out a former informant of his who saved his life has been murdered in Malaysia. So he decides to stay on the force to solve this one last case. In addition to a cookie-cutter plot, the filmmakers feel the need to show some brutally overdone scenes of decapitation, people getting shot, and just general carnage. Some scenes brought back memories of the torture Wile E. Coyote suffered while chasing the Roadrunner. What's surprising is that the film was written by Gordon Chan and co-directed by Johnny To, who would go on to become two of the best filmmakers in Hong Kong. I'm sure this isn't a movie they look back on with pride.

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 03/29/2003
Summary: Wow !

I have a version w/ no eng. subs..only
a synopsis from a HK cinema book to go
This is what "New Wave" HK was all about.
The cast is wonderful. The soundtrack
is less "maudlin" than other big movies
a year or two earlier for this genre.
Nice improvement, considering the ultra violent
(but well done I might add) scenes.
Near Classic.

Reviewed by: S.A. Winters
Date: 12/18/2002
Summary: Well, it's OK and it proves Johnny To Just gets better

So I'm a little behind on this one. I'm cheap. Sue me. Over the years all I heard was " It's so bloody" and "Really graphic" things like that. So how is the movie. A big OK. Standard action fare with some fingers and a body being ripped in half once in awhile.
HEY! Don't leave yet. If you watch HK action, this still is a must. If anything it shows even 14 years ago Johnny To was not going to let you off the hook and give you a nice happy ending.
Maybe I was just waiting to see what would happen next that pulled me away from the story of 4(very likable) cops out for revenge and redemption.
Anyway I tend to like movies the 2nd time I watch them. Worth $10.00 of your hard earned money.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 08/22/2002
Summary: Very good

To me, The Big Heat was always the strongest competitor with A Better Tomorrow, and whilst in a way it’s very different, it’s still a very good film. It seems both Johnnie To and Tsui Hark knew exactly what they were doing in order to achieve the end result that The Big Heat is.

Waise Lee is the main character in this, and by far out shines the rest of the crew. The rest of the cast is also very good, and there are no downsides as far as acting goes. In fact, after all the times I’ve seen this, there is very little wrong with it.

The story is pretty solid, and the violence level and body count is as high as A Better Tomorrow (strong enough this was given a Cat III in fact). The main problem is not with the film itself, but with the production side of things. The whole film quite obviously had a reasonably low budget, and it shows, although most of it still looks pretty impressive even by today’s standards. In all honesty, the film has a very strong ‘Danny Lee’ feel to it most of the time, and if it wasn’t for the fact that Waise Lee was the main character then I would probably feel this was just another cop film. Luckily its impact is still so strong enough that to me this still remains another classic.

Highly recommended, for a solid action/crime film.


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mehaul
Date: 07/29/2002

Solid, gritty action flick revolving around four "Dirty Harry" style cops.
Excellent action which is graphic at times (i.e. the hospital being attacked by gunmen).

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/23/2002
Summary: OK film that Influenced Hard Boiled?

This was an enjoyable viewing but just nothing to write home about. Still, it's better than most of the genre, with some inventive ideas and filming that all come together. Sure, some important bits of the story were thrown aside, but allowing for the year, The Big Heat is a respectable effort.

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 03/25/2002

This Tsui Hark-produced police actioner means business! Gritty, cynical and excessively violent, the movie has no time for any tension-relieving buddy-cop humour or shrieking damsels in distress - unstead, we are presented with a relentless barrage of hard-hitting action that includes everything from decapitations, limbs being torn off or severed by power drills, fiery deaths, stabbings and fatal shootouts.

Waise Lee plays a police inspector intent on taking revenge for the death of his former partner, an undercover cop killed in brutal fashion during a mission in Malaysia. He is joined by a team that includes the agile Phillip Kwok, and together they begin to unravel a blackmail case involving drugsmuggling, while battling a vast array of bad guys in every conceivable fashion.

Although billed as one of the stars on the DVD cover, Joey Wong has only a very small role. She appears twice as a nurse during hospital scenes, and doesn't really get involved in the storyline at all until the final confrontation between the cops and the head villain.

Despite the limitations of a small budget, the movie is well-paced and efficiently shot, and while there's not much to the story itself, the gripping action scenes offer enough thrills to give this film a fully deserved two thumbs up.

Reviewed by: crazytigerfong
Date: 03/11/2002
Summary: 3/5

Not bad. Not bad at all. If you can rent this one and just want to see a crime drama, then this is a good fit. Something I wouldn't consider buying though. Somehow I just couldn't really cure for the characters; they lacked this certain charm and personality. And I hate films where the bad guy is too evil and too mean; that turned me off a lot about this film

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: GlennS
Date: 06/08/2000

Very good film with some disturbing scenes (power drill through a hand, autopsy of a charred corpse) and inventive action sequences. It's a tour-de-force for B-list actors Waise Lee and Chu Kong, who are more known for other roles in more famous films (Paul in BULLET IN THE HEAD and Sidney in THE KILLER respectively), but arguably give the best perfomances of their careers here. The quality of the film is not surprising given that Johnnie To is the co-director and Gordon Chan is the screenwriter.


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 12/14/1999
Summary: Pretty good action vehicle for Waise Lee

Medical drama-style attention to detail when (as frequently happens here) people are hurt or killed. Certainly very gruesome, but so are many HK actioners. I thought this one was great. Just the right balance of slam-bang action, involving plot and character development.
A note about Stuart Ong, a veteran of dozens of cheap porns and bit parts. I found his performance quite compelling. Or is it just that he looks (in this movie) so much like John Hurt ?

Reviewer Score: 8