Big Heat, The (1988)

June 29, 2003 • Film, Reviews

[director Tsui Hark]

This is the most violent cops n’ robbers movie ever. Surprised? Before John Woo created Hard Boiled, this movie sported a similarily huge body count. While not as technically impressive as Hard Boiled, the film does have one thing the Woo films do not: the violence is just some of the most hideously gory material ever filmed. It’s impossible to watch this stuff and not twitch with tension as you see power drills going through human hands, people with dynamite stuffed in their mouths, and steam rollers crushing people left and right. And as such, this film is one of the ultimate expressions of the pre-handover tension that filled the Hong Kong movie industry throughout its new wave of the 80s and 90s. The Big Heat seems to refer to the corrupt businessmen and criminals trying to strike it rich in Hong Kong and leave before it is handed over to China.

Waise Lee, supporting actor in most John Woo, Cynthia Khan, Moon Lee, and Yukari Oshima projects, plays the lead here. He is a cop on a mission to root out city corruption. And his target is the most corrupt gangster in Hong Kong, a man who is in a panic to make it big and get out of Hong Kong before the handover. Waise Lee hunts the guy down with tenacity.

This is a solidly scary thriller with solid, often realistic acting and some really unique and beautiful sequences. Waise Lee is perfect as the quietly driven cop, and Chu Kong, Chow Yun-Fat’s best friend in The Killer, is a thoroughly evil villain this time.

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