Dangerous Encounter - 1st Kind
AKA: Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind, Don't Play With Fire
Year of release: 1980
Director: Tsui Hark
Action director: Ching Siu-Tung
Producer: Thomas Fung
Writers: Tsui Hark, Sze-To Cheuk-Hon
Cinematography: David Chung
Editors: John Chow, Woo Wai-Chi
Music: Tang Siu-Lam, Yu Leun
Stars: Lo Lieh, Albert Au, Lam Jan-Kei, Ray Lui, Ada Fung, Lung Tin-Sang, Paul Che, Ronny Yu, John Shum, Tsui Hark, Bruce Baron
Not rated; contains III-level brief nudity, language, and violence
Movie Review Index
One of noted film-maker Tsui Hark's earliest releases, Dangerous Encounter - 1st Kind (aka Don't Play With Fire) alternates between being overly grim, deeply depressing, and outrageously violent. It's also one of the best thrillers produced anywhere in the world from the time, and went a long way to cementing Hong Kong as an area for cinephiles to take note of during the 1980's, as the period that would come to be known as "the Hong Kong New Wave" was now obviously settling in for the long haul.
The New Wave film-makers, which also include John Woo, Kirk Wong, and Patrick Tam, were either trained in western film school and/or highly influenced by the independent western cinema of the 1970's. They sought to change what was viewed as an archaic studio system, both thematically and technically. Eschewing closed sets and over-dubbed dialogue, most of the New Wave releases were shot directly on the streets of Hong Kong in sync sound, while the stories pushed aside the usual fare of well-worn folk tales and melodrama for more contemporary tales of "real" life in Hong Kong.
This aesthetic is clearly shown in Dangerous Encounter - 1st Kind. The basic story of a group of teens trying to cover up a fatal hit-and-run accident would have probably been your usual "youth in trouble" release if it had come from a studio like Shaw Brothers. But, under the eye of Tsui Hark, the basic story becomes something deeply and incredibly twisted, yet still compelling and fascinating to watch. The movie is a bit of a slow burn, as there are various characters and plotlines, as well as a MacGuffin in the guise of a box of Japanese bank notes, introduced that don't seem to gel together at first. There are also several scenes, most notably the disgusting and very graphic killing of a cat, that only look to be thrown in for the exploitation factor.
But everything is masterfully drawn together during the final act, which leads up to a suspenseful and tense confrontation in a graveyard. It turns out that's a fitting setting, as the violence ratchets up. This isn't the sort of movie that necessarily goes for quantity in the blood department, but, actually, the restraint shown by Tsui makes the deaths that do occur on-screen have all that much more impact. In the end, there are no winners or losers, no heroes or villains, and no real resolution. In this case, though, that's a very good thing. The questions and thoughts Dangerous Encounter - 1st Kind will leave the viewer with speak highly to its' ability, like with all great films, to actually engage and draw people in.