"City War" Chinese Theatrical Poster
Director: Sun Chung
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Ti Lung, Norman Chu Siu Keung, Tien Niu, Lee Ka Ting, Lo Lieh, Teresa Carpio, Michael Chow Man Kin, Ricky Yi Faan Wai, Mary Hon Lut Le
Running Time: 92 min.
By JJ Hatfield
The movie has barely begun before action explodes on the screen. A cop is chasing a shoplifter and they end up in a restaurant where the criminal holds a woman employee hostage. The bad guy is also holding a really long bladed knife to the poor woman’s throat and blood is dribbling down her neck. With the cop, Ken (Ti Lung) not making much progress the hostage negotiator, Dick, (Chow Yun- Fat) is called in to deal with and diffuse the standoff. It’s almost a good cop – bad cop situation except nothing was planned and there is nearly a fight between the two.
It all works out and the two cops can work together well but Ken is short tempered whereas Dick is more mellow and kicked back in his white polyester suits. He likes the finer things in life including beautiful cars and beautiful ladies, not necessarily in that order. However he is always on the look out for clues and really does take his duty seriously.
The viewer should remember this film was made in the 1980s Hong Kong Triad/Crime/Heroes With Guns setting. After the hostage situation things do seem to drag as Dick does his dazzling disco which seems to be more groping than dancing. But do watch and pay attention as it does have relevance. Dick Lee and Ken Chow hold different values in their hearts but they are both truly good men who have become good friends.
Ken is a family man and nothing means more to him than his wife and children. One of the reasons he became a cop was to help make the world, or a portion of it, safe for his loved ones. Ken has a difficult time trying to understand Dick’s flamboyant ways and Dick can’t imagine being tied down with a family. Nevertheless a deep bond develops between them and Dick becomes a friend to the whole family.
Things turn deadly serious when Ken discovers a vicious criminal Ted (Tsui Siu-Keung) is about to be free and on his own after being taken down ten years earlier as part of a major gangland force. Ken was heavily involved and has received threats to him and his family. All this time Ted hasn’t forgotten his revenge and has everything in position. He has no intention of letting those miserable years go unpaid.
In desperation to protect his family Ken nearly ends up off the force. Dick tries to calm him but he cannot know what it feels like to have your family in danger. No one will believe Ken’s fears are real, after all he has arrested many powerful gang criminals before and nothing had happened.
This film helped to re – energize Chow Yun Fat’s career as well as to bring back the excitement and bullet ballets of the great director John Woo. “A Better Tomorrow’ changed many things for a lot of people in the industry, I believe for the good. Ti Lung is always reliable and in some films, even this one, he comes across as very believable. Ti Lung And Chow Yun Fat have been in numerous films together and usually it is Ti Lung with the calmer head. But this time it is family.
I wasn’t impressed with the the direction by Chung Sun. It was adequate but the third act might have used a bit in the earlier part of the film. Once the insane shooting finale begins it’s balls to the wall and … don’t want to say too much. Chung Sun is better known for his work with the Shaw Brothers earlier films in the 1970s and early 1980‘s with movies such as “Human Lanterns”. Hoskin is credited with the story and there are no less than five action choreographers! Trust me, they were needed with this much action taking place!
The finale involves Ken and Dick and a whole bunch of bad asses trying to kill each other in ballistic excess but great action!. That shouldn’t be a spoiler when these two are on the screen. They do have a special chemistry that shines through the role or character!
The massive action is quite good. The fights are filmed in a fashion that allows the viewer to see what is happening. The story line even brings in a special assassin (Robin Shou Wan Bo) in a very brief cameo. Action fans will not be disappointed. This is good solid entertainment. If you feel a bit restless early on do not worry. Your patience will be rewarded!
JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 7.5/10