City on Fire  dvd cover

City on Fire


Director: Ringo Lam

Stars: Chow Yun-Fat, Danny Lee, Parkman Wong, Elvis Tsui, Roy Cheung, Carrie Ng, Lau Kong

A reluctant undercover cop (Chow) is forced to complete one last job -- infiltrate a gang of jewel thieves led by Lee. Things get complicated when the cop and criminal become friends as they head off to pull the gang's biggest job ever.

City on Fire is probably most famous in the West as the movie that provided some of the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Some people have said that Reservoir Dogs is a total rip-off of City on Fire, but really Reservoir Dogs only shares some similarities; only one shot in Reservoir Dogs is totally swiped, where Mr. White blasts the cop car.

Unlike the fast-talking, pop-culture referencing gangsters of Reservoir Dogs, the characters in City on Fire are somber and serious. Even though there is some comic relief when Chow tries to sweet-talk his girlfriend (Carrie Ng in her first role), the movie (like many of Ringo Lam's other films) has a dark and bleak tone to it. Most of the action in the movie occurs not through the use of guns (though the finale has its share of bloodshed), but from the confrontations between Chow and the various people in his life (as well as his own inner demons).

A good film probably worth watching (for US fans, at least) for the curiosity factor alone. It's a well-made police/gangster drama that set the tone for many films that followed it -- it's just too bad that it hasn't aged as well as some of Ringo Lam's other work, though it still provides a good night's entertainment.


Dimension has recently released a version of the film. Like most of their releases of HK movies, it has been cut. It is hard to tell exactly how much has been cut, since the US version actually runs longer due to the new title and end credit sequences, but here are a few of the differences:

For those that are interested here are the things borrowed from City on Fire in Reservoir Dogs according to the Quentin Tarantino FAQ (I have added some notes in [brackets]:

However, "City on Fire", a Hong Kong action movie directed by Ringo Lam in 1987 is by far the biggest influence on "Reservoir Dogs". Tarantino has used a number of ideas in the film and these are worth outlining:

A review of the DVD for this movie (US version) can be found by clicking here

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