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Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Retro Review: Full Contact (1992) #Hongkongcinema

Full Contact aka Haap dou Ko Fei
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Simon Chow, Anthony Wong, Ann Bridgewater, Frankie Chan
Genre: Action Thriller
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $16 million

Plot: Two disreputable friends get tied in with a group of criminals who turn out to be excessively violent and deceptive

'Adrenaline Fuelled, Bullet-Riddled ActionFest That Still Rules' 

I caught the last half of this movie on TV when I was visiting Hong Kong recently, and that made me want to watch Full Contact in its entirety. Having loved John Woo's Hard Boiled, I was curious as to how this one would fare and whether it was as hardcore and bonkers as the former, which coincidently was released in the same year as Full Contact.

Taking place between Hong Kong and Thailand, the plot sees Jeff (Chow Yun-Fat), Chung and Sam join Judge's (Simon Yam) gang in a heist. After the attack, Jeff is left for dead and Judge and his cohorts betray him, Chung and Sam. When Jeff survives the incident, he seeks his vengeance against Judge. 

Well, I have to say, this was unbelievable in places but also fantastic (whatever happened to Hong Kong action cinema since the glory years of the 1980s and early 1990s?). But also the idea to introduce the villains as primary characters first over the protagonist is a rarity that is unheard of in action films; when done right, as it is here and as effectively, Judge, Psycho and Virgin are such colourful types with varying personalities: you have the camp one, the muscular big guy and finally, the female vixen. She looked and dressed like a hooker and was just as horny with a hunky looking thug of a boyfriend, who goes on a killing spree and shoots people to death. They were like archetype cartoon villains that came to life in live action form and they were so over-the-top in their mannerisms. 

After triumphing in Tiger Cage opposite Donnie Yen and Jacky Cheung, Simon Yam reprises his nasty antagonist role, only this time playing a flamboyant homosexual gang leader, and boy does he live up to that description: Judge is cocky, beyond evil and despicable and there is no one who could play evil as well as Yam himself, and brimming with charisma. Completing the rout is Anthony Wong who surprisingly plays against type somewhat as Sam; not so much a villain like in so many of his other films, but also not as the goodie-two-shoes, either. 

With main star Chow Yun-Fat, he rocks that biker look with that leather waistcoat, who wields a switchblade and accompanied by a cool ass Harley motorbike. As Jeff, he is very believable as the tough guy who doesn't mess about in a much darker and complex role. Whereas Jackie Chan excels at being a funny, kick-ass kung fu hero, Chow Yun-Fat excels by being a serious John Wayne, shoot 'em up antihero type who brings his brand of justice, Yun-Fat style (despite Jeff is still, technically a villain). 

The violence is very nihilistic, at times bordering on ugly in its souped-up high voltage, ultra masochism that Raymond Lam shoves down the audience that it can be difficult to swallow, but at the same time, it is unbelievably mindblowing to watch and to see it unfold in my eyes. He injects a ferocity and grittiness into the proceedings that would make Tarantino and Paul Verhoeven smile, whilst also channelling John Woo's vigour and deftness. There are shootouts, fights, chase sequences, explosions galore. 

The film lacks the fluidity and grace of Hard Boiled, but it's just as visually appealing to the eyes, as well as being brutal and gritty in its execution and depiction of violence. Full Contact is a perfect example of an R-rated, 18 rated violent action flick done right and everything about it all fell into place; the story is extremely entertaining and engrossing, but for the slight problematic and glaring homophobic theme and not so effective love triangle subplot (which it could have done without), is terrific.

Over the years, Full Contact has become a cult classic and championed as one of Hong Kong action cinema's best ever movies, not forgetting one of Chow Yun-Fat's finest. 

Final Verdict:

For fans of classic Hong Kong action cinema, Full Contact is hailed by many as one of the best action flicks of all-time and one they shouldn't pass up on. Whilst it is not as breathtaking and insane as Hard Boiled, this, nevertheless, still makes for a great accompaniment to the fellow John Woo classic that is boosted by top-notch performances across the board & terrific action choreography and set pieces. 


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