NYAFF15: City of Fire

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The NY Asian Film Festival hosted its 14th annual film festival screening the best films from across the Asian continent. The films range in various genre from respected directors and new works from rising stars. NYAFF gave the “Lifetime Achievement Award” sponsored by the HKETONY to director Ringo Lam. “You are master of film, master of cinema, so we giving you this but more importantly we are giving you this because your films are the best and we look forward toward seeing more of your work.”

Ringo Lam is a well known  for his “On Fire” films and is an iconic figure in action cinema who’s movies has inspired future films such as Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs and Kathryn Bigelow‘s “Point Break” . At the Walter Reade Theater, Director Ringo Lam made his grand entrance dressed in a suit with sunglasses and gave a brief two minute ovation;

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Director Ringo Lam with the NYAFF crew

“I’m surprised I didn’t get this in Hong Kong I got this award in New York.” (applause) “I’m not much of a talker. Tonight I’m here to present a movie I did 30 years ago. In 30 years, I look around and I think my film is older than you. The film I’m afraid it might be very scratchy and a  moldy but that’s not the optical effect I want. (laughter) “I’m going to watch the film I did 30 years ago, here in the theater with you. And with this award,  and with the people her and with all of you, really set my heart on fire”

The NYAFF team was able to recover an original copy of his “City of Fire” that he made 30 years ago with the original film reel and English subtitles. For many of the audience members, many weren’t born at the time he made the film, which made the whole experience very exciting. Once the film began, everyone was transported back to 1985 Hong Kong. The film began with a quick shootout between an undercover cop and three thugs. After the shootout, Inspector Lau (Shun Yueh) meets with Chow (Chow Yun-fat) an average guy with a troubled relationship with his fiancée. In the midst of all this, we learn that Chow wanted to leave his life as a undercover cop because he’s always betraying his friends even if they happen to be the enemy he is fighting. However, Inspector convinces him to help him seek out the robbers from a recent jewelry heist. As he takes on this mission, he is haunted by his nightmares, is pressured by his fiancée to marry her or else she’ll leave him, and with a new police force trying to take control of the mission, Chow is constantly on the tip of his toes trying to keep track of the robbers and the new police force who mistaken him as a criminal.

With a series of blunders and misunderstandings, Chow is constantly juggling his priorities of his professional and personal life. Ringo Lam captures the essence of what it truly means to be a police officer who has to put his life on the line in order to catch dangerous criminals. Unlike other action films with exaggerated effects and often unrealistic car chases and fights, Ringo Lam keeps it real with relatable characters we can sympathize with, even when Chow runs out of breath when running and struggles to jump on the back of a truck, which adds a comedic effect. Even the crooks, who are later revealed to the audience, are men who want to enjoy life to the fullest just like anyone else, but resort to crime to gain quick cash. Through his fluid camera transitions and raw depictions of the gun fights and car chases that are often romanticized in other action films, Chow’s acting adds agony to the struggles of being a cop, a fiancée, a friend, and nephew. The ending is just as realistic as the rest of the film, raw with unfulfilled promises and a city on fire.

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