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Full Contact
cast: Chow Yun-fat, Simon Yam, Anthony Wong, Ann Bridgewater, and Bonnie Fu

director: Ringo Lam

94 minutes (18) 1992
widescreen ratio 16:9
Hong Kong Legends DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
Think back a decade. If you were only used to seeing Asian superstar Chow Yun-fat in 1980s' style 'heroic bloodshed' movies playing an immaculately groomed, sharp-suited gangster or detective, or as the dapper Romeo in his few slick, early romantic comedy roles, Full Contact (aka: Xia dao Gao Fei) came as something of a shock to Chow's fans. Here, he plays Jeff, a streetwise nightclub bouncer in Bangkok. He's got spiky hair, a battered leather jacket, a motorbike, and sneering punk attitude to spare. It's a change of image that reveals yet another side of the great man's screen persona and a testament to the range of his acting talent.

Jeff is in love with sexy dancer Mona (Ann Bridgewater), and he's protective of best friend Sam (the ever watchable Anthony Wong) - who will eventually betray him. When Jeff becomes involved with the arch criminal schemes of openly-gay, sadistic gangster Judge (Simon Yam), and a dramatic robbery leads to an attempt on Jeff's life plotted by the other thieves, the battle lines are drawn for when Jeff recovers from his supposedly fatal injuries and returns to get his revenge.

Judge's gang includes henchman Deano (played by Asian bodybuilder Frankie Chin) and his outrageous nymphomaniac girlfriend Virgin (Bonnie Fu, absolutely dressed to kill). Having lost a couple of fingers in his armed confrontation with Judge, antihero Jeff isn't taking any prisoners now and, despite his intentions to forgive Sam, and try to win back Mona's heart, Jeff clearly intends to kill Judge and his troublesome sidekicks at the first opportunity...

One of Hong Kong's most accomplished action movie directors, Ringo Lam is the maker of ghostly romance Esprit d'amour (1983); cult thriller City On Fire (aka: Long hu feng yun, 1987) - which inspired Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs; cop drama Wild Search - an unofficial 'remake' of Peter Weir's Witness; and two pictures with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Maximum Risk (1996) and the sci-fi thriller Replicant (2001), amongst other less notable works. Unlike John Woo, Lam orchestras his film's magnificently exhilarating set pieces without direct reference to Christian iconography and, although Jeff maintains his sense of honour to the bitter end of this operatic crime saga, there's no sign of the chivalry or spiritual complexity that marks Woo's highest rated works in this often critically-maligned genre. Besides all the sleaze, macho posturing and hard edged violence, the extended shootout gracing the finale of Full Contact features dazzling high-speed camera-POV for the bullets smashing through skulls, which ups the ante on similar trick works in such arty offerings as Performance (1970).

Full Contact is obviously stylised, but that's something very much in its favour. It's certainly not a defect! Happily, this DVD presents the uncut version of Full Contact, complete with Jeff's butterfly-knife displays, and numerous bouts of lovingly photographed ultra-violence, previously censored by the BBFC for the film's original UK video release from the now defunct Made In Hong Kong label in 1998. This alone makes Full Contact an essential buy on DVD for Chow Yun-fat's legion of fans.

For this special collector's edition DVD courtesy of Hong Kong Legends the main film has been digitally restored and re-mastered in anamorphic widescreen (and enhanced for 16:9 TV sets), with a choice of the original Cantonese (with English subtitles) or an English dubbed version in Dolby digital 5.1 sound. The disc extras include an interview with Simon Yam in Malice Aforethought, an interview with Frankie Chin in Muscle Heat, a fascinating behind-the-scenes expose of gunplay techniques in Hong Kong cinema in Ballistic Kiss, and an audio commentary by genre expert Bey Logan accompanied by British martial artist turned actor Gary Daniels. There's also a trailer gallery and the usual HKL animated menu designs, but it's a shame the somewhat reticent (reclusive?) director Ringo Lam (yes, he's named after the Beatles' drummer!), was not available for interview himself.

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