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City on Fire (1987)


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Release Date: Jan 1, 1987 Wide



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Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 6,261

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Movie Info

This tense Hong Kong crime thriller is known best as the film upon which Quentin Tarantino borrowed heavily for his 1992 debut, Reservoir Dogs. Those who criticized the American director for lack of originality have perhaps missed the point. In the highly commercialized, formulaic crime genre of Hong Kong, very few thrillers are truly original, and innovation comes in the form of style, action choreography, and dramatic tension. City on Fire, directed by Ringo Lam, is no exception. The story,


Drama, Action & Adventure, Art House & International

Tommy Sham

Oct 26, 1999

Tai Seng

Watch It Now



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All Critics (16) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (10) | Rotten (1) | DVD (8)

A little slow going, but Chow, as always, is fantastic.

December 5, 2004 Full Review Source:

I wish Buena Vista had lavished a little more care on Lam's film; it deserves better.

August 8, 2001 | Comment (1)
Movie Metropolis

Audience Reviews for City on Fire

Jesus fucking christ, Tarantino didn't improve shit. This movie is great for it's own merits, and sadly has just ended up being refered as the "movie that inspired Tarantino". Which just adds further injury to the irony.

More than a mere action filler, this is a film about the characters. Back in the days when both Ringo Lam and Chow Yun Fat were the top dogs in the genre. recommended view for any serious HK movie aficionado.
June 10, 2012
Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

City on Fire is a solid crime flick and worth checking out if you're a fan Asian cinema, but lets get one thing straight right now...

Any one who says that Reservoir Dogs stole everything from this movie is not only just plain wrong, they CLEARLY don't know anything about film.

While there are similarities between Reservoir Dogs and City on Fire's third act, the rest of the film couldn't be more different. Reservoir Dogs is shorter, has completely different characters, a different structure, totally new dialog, and in emphasizes totally different elements of the classic bank robbery gone wrong plot.

Other than the undercover cop, the jewelry heist, and the fact it all ends badly, these two films are TOTALLY different in almost every way. Reservoir Dogs is a tighter, better acted, better written and better directed film. Watch the two films back to back and you'll see the differences between the two are painfully obvious.
October 22, 2011

Super Reviewer

An undercover cop infiltrates a gang of jewelry thieves without the knowledge of the police unit investigating causing a conflict in his loyalties. City On Fire was one of the first HK action films to try and fully develop the idea of an undercover cop becoming immersed in the criminal underworld and the psychological price he would pay for it. As such it can be seen not only as the template for Reservoir Dogs but also the forerunner to modern crime films such as Infernal Affairs and obviously therefore The Departed. It is in fact only the final half hour in which the gang pull off their heist that forms the basis of Reservoir Dogs, and this sequence has stood the test of time; unfortunately the rest of the film has not fared so well. Chow Yun Fat is as charismatic as always, but his homelife is a bit too soapy and the humour therein is barely above the level of the average Jackie Chan movie, the police station politics contain the usual HK stereotypes and the soundtrack is terrible in the way that only 80s Hong Kong movie soundtracks are. However it is still far grittier and realistic than the vast majority of its contemporaries and as such can be seen as the stepping stone between the blend of macho posturing and sentimentality of the likes of John Woo and the sophistication of the modern heist movie. It's certainly still worth a watch for that reason, especially for fans of Tarantino who can see where the seeds of Reservoir Dogs were sown.
January 21, 2011
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

hmm. i can tell this is a good heist film but it's hard for me to rate fairly as i watched a dubbed version. my bad. it makes everything look cheesy. it seems tarantino worked backward by expanding on the ending and actually created a better film in res dogs
July 8, 2009
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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