films seen
26/26
average score
2.36*
nationality
Hong Kong - 63 years old
status
R.I.P. (1955 - 2018)
more info

Hong Kong's undisputed king of gritty crime/action cinema. Lam likes adding a social aspect to his films, but because he's not the most gifted director its impact can be somewhat underwhelming. Still, he has an extensive oeuvre worth exploring.

The good stuff

Triangle

Tie Saam Gok
2007 / 93m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
Triangle poster

A celebration of Hong Kong crime cinema. Three prominent Hong Kong directors each get a 30-minute segment to tell their part of a story of three incidental thieves, who have to do their utmost best to keep their freshly acquired bounty out of the hands of the police and the Triads. Dark, brooding and stylish, a superb experiment that I wouldn't mind seeing repeated.

Solid pieces

Wild City

Bou Chau Mai Sing
2015 / 120m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Wild City poster

Burning Paradise

Huo Shao Hong Lian Si
1994 / 104m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
Burning Paradise poster

The inoffensive

3.0*/5.0*
Septet: The Story of Hong Kong poster

Not the greatest anthology. Don't be fooled by the names involved, I know they include some of the biggest Hong Kong directors from the past few decades, but the anthology itself is quite rigid and singular. Only Tsui Hark dares to do something different, the rest all went for sentimental throwbacks. Much like their Chinese counterparts.

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The stories are pretty simple, Sammo Hung reminisces about classic martial arts training, To looks at the stock market, Ann Hui digs up the old school life and Patrick Tam finds two lovers torn apart. Hark is the only one who had a bit of fun, throwing us inside a mental hospital where doctors and patients are too alike to distinguish.

I'm not a fan of nostalgia and sentimentality, many of the directors present aren't really equipped to deal with these themes either. It would've been a lot better if they'd stayed closer to their signature craft, that's what the anthology concept is for. A little disappointing, though I can't say I'm all that surprised. Hark deserves lots of props for his short though.

Sky on Fire

Chongtian Huo
2016 / 99m - China
Action, Thriller, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
Sky on Fire poster

Ringo Lam trying to relive his former glory days. A rather typical film from an oldskool director who isn't quite with the times anymore. There are some decent action scenes and the drama is above average for a Hong Kong action film, but overall it lacks panache and it fails to stand out from the rest. Not bad, not great.

Victim

Muk Lau Hung Gwong
1999 / 104m - Hong Kong
Horror, Mystery, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
Victim poster

The Suspect

Jidu Zhongfan
1998 / 109m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
The Suspect poster

Full Contact

Xia Dao Gao Fei
1992 / 96m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
Full Contact poster

Worthy but flawed

Full Alert

Ko Dou Gai Bei
1997 / 98m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action
2.5*/5.0*
Full Alert poster

Twin Dragons

Shuang Long Hui
1992 / 104m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
2.5*/5.0*
Twin Dragons poster

Prison on Fire II

Jian Yu Feng Yun II: Tao Fan
1991 / 109m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action, Crime
2.5*/5.0*
Prison on Fire II poster

Prison on Fire

Gaam Yuk Fung Wan
1987 / 98m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action, Thriller, Crime
2.5*/5.0*
Prison on Fire poster

Aces Go Places IV: You Never Die Twice

Zuijia Paidang Zhi Qianli Jiu Chaipo
1986 / 86m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
2.5*/5.0*
Aces Go Places IV: You Never Die Twice poster

Esprit d'Amour

Yam Yeung Choh
1983 / 98m - Hong Kong
Drama, Romance, Fantasy
2.5*/5.0*
Esprit d'Amour poster

Ringo Lam's first feature film. Like many other Hong Kong directors, Lam started out as a somewhat generic cog in the machine. Esprit d'amour is a rather typical mix of horror, comedy and romance that never quite succeeds. The pacing is alright though and it's an easy watch, it's just not that memorable.

Dubious filler

Looking for Mr. Perfect

Kei Fung Dik Sau
2003 / 101m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Drama, Action
2.0*/5.0*
Looking for Mr. Perfect poster

Touch and Go

Yi Chu Ji Fa
1991 / 97m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
Touch and Go poster

A rather basic action film from Ringo Lam. Like most of his films, it's a tad grittier than its contemporaries, but also lacking the joy and creativity that makes Hong Kong action so much fun to watch. With a headliner like Sammo Hung, this film should've been way more entertaining than it turned out to be.

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There is too much focus on the drama, especially for a film where the performances are poor and the plot is derivative. Touch and Go is a run-of-the-mill action flick, what's the point on spending so much time on characters that never come to life anyway. A lighter tone and a couple more action scenes would've gone a long way to make this better.

It's not the first time that I felt this way about one of Lam's films, so people who are fan of his work are almost guaranteed to get something out of it. The few action scenes that are present are pretty solid, sporting some impressive practical stunt work, but it just wasn't enough to save the film for me.

Wild Search

Ban Wo Chuang Tian Ya
1989 / 98m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller
2.0*/5.0*
Wild Search poster

School on Fire

Hok Haau Fung Wan
1988 / 101m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
School on Fire poster

A very typical Lam film. Ten minutes of censored material, more gruesome than most of its Hong Kong counterparts and set up as a social commentary. But the direction is pretty poor and the film lacks true impact. Lam tried his whole career to balance drama and action but never really found a way to do it well.

City on Fire

Lung Fu Fong Wan
1987 / 101m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
City on Fire poster

Cupid One

Oi San Yat Ho
1985 / 95m - Hong Kong
Romance
2.0*/5.0*
Cupid One poster

The Other Side of Gentleman

Jun Zi Hao Qiu
1984 / 93m - Hong Kong
Comedy
2.0*/5.0*
The Other Side of Gentleman poster

An old Ringo Lam comedy. Clearly a training film for Lam. You won't recognize much of his typical style, there are no real crime elements and the grittiness is almost completely absent. It's a typical 80s Hong Kong comedy, not great but passable and somewhat entertaining. Hard to recommend, unless you're a completist.

Plain forgettable

Replicant

2001 / 100m - USA
Sci-fi, Action, Thriller
1.5*/5.0*
Replicant poster

Great Adventurers

Da Mao Xian Jia
1995 / 108m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action
1.5*/5.0*
Great Adventurers poster

Undeclared War

Sheng Zhan Feng Yun
1990 / 103m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
Undeclared War poster

A pretty tame and lifeless police thriller. The international elements add very little, Lam's direction is uninspired and functional and the story fails to engage. I've seen a million of these already and Undeclared War seems unwilling to add anything meaningful to the genre. It's simple filler, but even by that standard it's not very good.

Big nopes

In Hell

2003 / 98m - USA
Action, Crime
1.0*/5.0*
In Hell poster

Extremely cheesy and third-grade action flick. Ringo Lam takes his prison drama outside of Hong Kong, but fails to make it enticing. The acting is atrocious, the plot is laughable and the attempts at make it a little more poetic are simply painful. The action is dull too, which makes you wonder why they even bothered with this at all.

Maximum Risk

1996 / 101m - USA
Action, Thriller, Crime
1.0*/5.0*
Maximum Risk poster

Horrible 90s action flick. Ringo Lam's first try in America is pretty depressing. The action scenes are pretty lame, the actors are eye-watering bad, the film looks at least 10 years older than it should and the plot is a complete waste of time. The entire film is in fact, best to avoid this one.