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Full Contact (1992)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

[director Ringo Lam]

One of Ringo Lam’s many masterpieces, this one is like a comic book come to life. Chow Yun-Fat, in one of his most penetrating performances, plays strip club bouncer Jeff, with serious eyes and a wicked balisong (a fillippino butterfly knife). When his friend Sam (Anthony Wong) is in debt to a loan shark, Jeff rescues him and makes fast enemies of the loan shark in the process. Because of this, Jeff and his buddies have to get out of Bangkok post-haste. They leave, with Jeff’s girlfriend Mona (Ann Bridgewater) in tow, but with nothing else; there’s nowhere they can run since they’re flat broke.

This leads to a not-very-smart burglary/ambush partnership with the flamboyant gay robber Judge, played to the hilt by Simon Yam. Judge gets paid by the loan shark to kill Jeff, setting in motion Judge’s chief dilemma: how can he kill Jeff when he is so attracted to the hunkcake bouncer?

Jeff’s problem is different. He is betrayed by Sam, who is, in fact, Judge’s cousin, and then he has to make it out of a chaotic firefight, minus several fingers. After retraining himself, Jeff has to decide how to handle the Sam situation; Sam didn’t just betray Jeff on the battlefield, he stole Jeff’s girlfriend, too, when he reported to her that Jeff was dead.

Jeff is a macho man, bedecked in leather and riding a Harley. Judge is glamorous and oversexed, with a slew of deadly magic tricks up his snakeskin sleeves. Sam is a total nerd. They might have all gotten up out of the pages of a Mickey Spillane novel or one of Dark Horse’s earlier, more violent comics. Judge also has a couple of wacked-out henchmen, Deano and Virgin. Deano is a huge musclebound brute with a mohawk, while Virgin is anything but her namesake, an avowedly slutty proponent of mayhem. The scenes where these two and Judge are messing with Chow and his friends are hilarious and tense.

This movie also features the first-ever bulletcam gunfight. Bullets move in slow-motion, and the camera rides right behind them, smashing through windowpanes and eyeballs alike. The fight itself is riveting, much more so than anything in The Matrix or the Charlie’s Angels movie.

When Ringo Lam arrived in Bangkok to find his crew squabbling over personal issues and fighting over the movie, he added another element to the plot. “blahblahblah—Ringo quote.” Disecting loyalty in an environment of lust, desperation, and temptation makes the film much more sophisticated than it might have otherwise been. But besides this theme, the great elements of this production are the over-the-top characterizations and the blistering action, all accompanied by a hard-rocking, guitar-heavy score. It’s one of the best movies of the late New Wave in Hong Kong, and it boasts one of Chow Yun-Fat’s most unique and iconic roles, as well.

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