Written by Nam Yin
Directed by Ringo Lam
Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Anthony Wong, Simon Yam, Ann Bridgewater, Bonnie Fu, and Frankie Chin.
Released by: Columbia Tri-star
My Advice: Rent it.
Chow Yun-Fat‘s Full Contact is a cult fave, despite its originally lackluster box office in Asia. The chief objection to the film in its theatrical release seems to be that audiences weren’t all that interested in seeing CYF play a ruthless criminal. Following this film, though, he played similar characters a number of times, and audiences seem to have eventually adjusted.
[ad#longpost]The story here is a familiar one. A handful of small-time criminal pals find themselves needing to partner up with a much nastier batch of crooks for One Last Heist, and then the betrayals start. Jeff (Yun-Fat) reluctantly agrees to partner with up-and-coming crime boss Judge (Yam) in order to help his childhood pal Sam (Wong) clear a few gambling debts before they all make their break to go back to Hong Kong from seedy Bangkok. Of course, the big operation goes pear-shaped, and Sam betrays Jeff, putting a bullet in him for good measure. Everybody goes about their business assuming Jeff is dead, and Jeff crawls out of the river a few miles away and begins the obligatory convalescence/training montage before setting out to exact a bloody revenge.
Complicating the plot is Jeff’s fiancé, Mona (Bridgewater), who took solace in the arms of Sam after Jeff’s untimely “demise,” never knowing the truth of the matter about Sam’s betrayal. When Jeff reappears, Sam agrees to help him get his revenge on the rest of Judge’s gang (largely due to his own guilt over shooting Jeff), but jealousy makes for some tense moments as Jeff and Mona consider renewing their romance. All this conflict gets resolved the only way it ever does in Hong Kong movies — combat. Bullets fly, blood spills, and our “hero” cuts a swath through the Thai underworld with little more than a couple of pistols and a stolen shipment of hand grenades.
This is an excellent revenge film…tough guy antihero, generous helping of thugs, some serious betrayals and reversals — in short, everything you could ask for in such a story. The performances are about as good as one gets in an action film, though Judge’s lieutenants Virgin (Fu) and Deano (Chin) are a little lost in the shuffle. In Fu’s case, this mostly has to do with the sheer ridiculousness of her character as written. Virgin’s a two-dimensional gun moll, coming on to anybody she’s alone with for more than a minute. The rest of the cast does good work, though. Yam’s homosexual magician mob boss is an unusual character concept, but it comes off pretty well on film (just trust me on this one). Chow Yun-Fat isn’t so much likeable as he is understandable. He’s a bad man, doing bad things, but the audience can feel somewhat vindicated in cheering for him, since all that oppose him are getting only what they deserved.
I continue to wait for the glorious day wherein somebody actually puts even a single special feature on most Hong Kong action movie DVDs in Region 1. This, alas, is a more typical DVD release…no features except trailers. Given that this is one of Chow Yun-Fat’s most memorable and critically well-regarded films, some discussion by someone in the know on the HK film scene would have been neat. Hell, an interview with CYF himself would have been good stuff. But we get nada. Because of this dearth of additional material, I’d only encourage rental from most viewers. The true die-hards will probably want to add it to the permanent collection, though.