City on Fire (1987)
Reviewed by: dragyn on 2001-03-04
Summary: Reservoir Dogs One
"City On Fire" takes the age-old story of a jewellery heist gone wrong, and adds a new level: it gives the central chracters depth, and presents everything with a strong underlying anti-violence message. Thankfully, it gives no political message, and it glamourises neither cops nor robbers, but portrays both sides of the law with equal strengths and weaknesses.

The action isn't great, though - and there's not much of it. If you're looking for a John-Woo-type blood splattering masterpiece - then go watch one. This certainly isn't one. But "City On Fire" does possess a charm of its own; the plot is involving, and the chracters become increasingly more likeable as the movie progresses. While I don't think "city On Fire" lives up to its rumoured masterpiece status, it is still an immensely enjoyable and emotionally envolving film. And it has Chow Yun-Fat in, and he can act (almost)anything and make you wanna watch.

I also feel compelled to add a piece on my views regarding Quentin Tarantino copying "City On Fire" when he made "Reservoir Dogs". The extent to which he ripped the movie off is scarcely believeable: the plot is almost identical, and some of the dialoge is a carbon copy of that in "City On Fire". Sure, there are a few elements in "Dogs" that didn't appear in "City" and vice versa, but on the whole the similarity is stunning. As for whose version of the movie is better, well - I think I have to say "City On Fire is far superior, for several reasons.
1) Ringo Lam made "City On Fire first, which means he is original, something Tarantino can't often claim to be. In fact, I argue that Tarantino's talent lies not in originality, but rather in his ability to tell stories in a non-linear fashion.
2) Ringo Lam gives his characters far more depth than Quentin Tarantino does. I felt T's chracters were in fact rather wooden.
3)I dislike Tarantino's shock-tactic use of extreme violence, without an underlying message or emotional level to back it up. Don't get me wrong - I like violent films, but I find soulless violence hard to watch; I get bored.

All in all, I give "City On Fire": 7/10