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Original Title:
Xia dao Gao Fei

Hong Kong 1993


Ringo Lam

Chow Yun-Fat
Simon Yam
Anthony Wong
Ann Bridgewater
Bonnie Fu
Frankie Chin
Chris Lee
Victor Hon
Yin Nam

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Full Contact

Story: Biker Gou Fei (Chow Yun-Fat) gets rid of some thugs of the local loan shark for his friend Sam (Anthony Wong). After that the two have no other choice, but to leave Thailand. However, they don't have the money to do so, which is why they decide to raid a money transporter together with the gangster Judge (Simon Yam) and his group. Yet, there is a lot going wrong during the robbery and Gou Fei is betrayed by Judge and Sam. The gangsters escape to Hong Kong thinking that Gou Fei is dead. But in fact he somehow survives and vows vengeance. After some recovery time he goes to Hong Kong, too, in order to find Sam, but when he does he understands that Sam is now together with his former wife Mona (Ann Bridgewater), who also believes that he is dead. Gou Fei wants to wreak revenge on Sam, but he soon realizes that Sam simply was in a bit of a predicament and had to choose between his life and that of his friend. Thus, Gou Fei decides to forgive his friend and to cheat Judge with his help. A deadly game commences...

Review: Ringo Lam is regarded as one of Hong Kong's best action directors. Still, almost any movie of him has to be located somewhere in the B-movie section, and it isn't any different with his trips to Hollywood that resulted in "Maximum Risk" or "Replicant". Nevertheless, you should give him credit for actually having talent which - at the latest - his collaboration with Johnnie To and Tsui Hark in "Triangle" is proof of. His film "Full Contact" is nostalgically nihilistic and violent Hong Kong cinema, one of the last movies before Chow Yun-Fat tried his luck in Hollywood, too. Without a doubt never reaching the level of a "Hard Boiled" the movie still manages to entertain for most part and proves with its action insertions that back in the old days everything was really better when it comes to shoot-outs. Which is also the reason why the B-movie flair that inevitably has to creep in because of the story and the somewhat overdone character drawings isn't bothering at all. On the contrary, in certain respects it even adds to the entertainment value of the film.

The first robbery of a jewelry store by Judge's group shows us what kind of hyperbrutal action HK-movies offered back then. At times it's even a bit too much, because thanks to such scenes the villians don't just get despicable like it was intended but like cheap imitations of themselves, too, seemingly being bad because of the necessity of being bad. Nowadays, we seldomly get real character depth in HK-action movies neither, but Ringo Lam really makes things too easy for himself here. At least these caricatures of villians aren't soon forgotten thanks to that and the viewer somehow cares about them. To see Simon Yam and Anthony Wong in their younger days is a reason to watch "Full Contact", anyhow. Yam plays the villian as a charismatic gay who always has something dangerous of a leader about him and stands out because of his mercilessness. His fast fingers and deadly tricks with his handkerchief almost make him an anime-character, that's how overdone he is sketched.

Anthony Wong undergoes the biggest change in the movie, but can't be convincing at any time as he can be incredibly annoying with his whiny nature at the beginning. Chow Yun-Fat on the other hand plays the rather wild biker, who also has no problem going over dead bodies. His character, like always when it comes to Chow, works well because of his coolness factor. What's interesting, too, is that all characters, apart from Mona, are rogues or villians. Of course, there are some small differences between them. As Gou Fei states you have to stick to your moral code as a thief, because otherwise you wouldn't be able to face your maker with a clean conscience. This attitude is what's making it possible for us to sympathize with Gou Fei. And even the other characters show some peculiarities, that make them more appealing even though we wouldn't care about their possible demise.

As already said, the shoot-outs are pretty bloody and there are some knife fights, too. Chasing scenes with cars as well as numerous explosions are also part of Ringo Lam's repertoire. Those scenes are all brought on screen in a respectable way and keep the adrenaline rushing. When it comes to style you really can't criticize Lam. Despite its B-movie charm there is everything done right in this respect. A special highlight is the "bullet cam" that shows us the trajectory of the bullets. Only used in one scene this extra can add a lot to the action content of the film. "Full Contact" tries to work on a drama level, also, but luckily never goes too deep into the love triangle of the movie so that the drama never gets in the way of the action and instead fills the gaps in between in a pleasant way.

The action sequences are complemented by some hot scenes, too. Be it Ann Bridgewater who makes the male audience sweat as the sexy dancer in a club or the more obvious sex scenes. Furthermore, Ringo Lam can add a lot to the biker feeling, especially at the beginning, with the western music he implements. Moreover, he is very merciless when it comes to the fate of his characters, just the way we love it from HK-movies. Along with the well-done, albeit short, showdown and the evenly spread shoot-outs throughout the film this creates a nostalgic feeling, so that we have to ask ourselves why filmmakers nowadays aren't capable of shooting such simple, yet entertaining action flicks anymore.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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