You might have heard this one before: Chow Yun Fat is an undercover cop who takes one last job infiltrating a gang of jewel thieves. He befriends cool gunster Danny Lee despite himself. The big jewel robbery goes wrong, Yun Fat gets gut-shot, and the gang withdraw to their warehouse hideout to shout and point guns at each other while trying to work out who sold them out.
Sound familiar? That’s because boy wonder Tarrantino used the last half hour of this excellent flick as the basis for his Reservoir Dogs. Check the original, and you’ll see what turned Quentin on: great characters, pacing, tension and drama. Clean jawed Roy Cheung is the hard detective who decides that the undercover cop is as guilty as the thieves, and Carrie Ng makes her film debut as Yun Fat’s long suffering girlfriend (hard to believe from this that she would go on to be the castrating assassin Princess in Naked Killer).
There is one scene in City on Fire which I always think of as the difference between tough guy Hollywood heroes and trickster Hong Kong heroes; Yun Fat whistles at some girls, they tell him to piss off, and he does this crazy little happy dance. I can’t see Schwarzenegger wiggling his ass like that.
All-time top ten. An absolutely tremendous crime film.