City on Fire

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Reviews Counted: 11

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Average Rating: 3.5/5

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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, told in a more traditional narrative form than Reservoir Dogs, follows Chow Yun-Fat as Ko Chow, an undercover cop who infiltrates a ring of jewel thieves. When a heist goes wrong, Chow is wounded, and tension among the robbers escalates as they begin to suspect a traitor among their ranks.


Critic Reviews for City on Fire

All Critics (11)

Audience Reviews for City on Fire

Inspirational material, cops, and robbers all stem from Ringo Lam's City on Fire.

A solidly written story backed with good storytelling gives this 100 minute picture life. Major characters receive much needed buildup along the way, leading to a conclusion with recognizable and familiar segments.

Low budget caliber action and sound effects blows through the film from start to end. While some of it tends to be a little over the top, it doesn't feel out of place given the time frame of the film.

Chow Yun-Fat is a star. His performance over shadows much of everything else that this film has to offer. Danny Lee proves to be an integral part of the story when the conclusion comes around. Carrie Ng, Roy Cheung, and Yueh Sun complete a package of supporting characters.

City on Fire is Hong Kong cops and robbers at a high level with an ending of familiarity.

JY Skacto
JY Skacto

Super Reviewer

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.

Tsubaki Sanjuro
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.

Ken Stachnik
Ken Stachnik

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.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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