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Prison on Fire (1987)

Gam yuk fung wan (original title)
4:59 | Trailer
Inside a Chinese prison two inmates form a friendship and face the difficulty of life on the inside.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
41671 / Chung Tin Ching (as Chow Yun Fat)
Ka-Kui Ho ...
Victor Hon ...
Chiu Chow Man
Frankie Chi-Hung Ng ...
Blind Snake
Kwong Leung Wong ...
Man-Gwan Wong ...
Joe Chu ...
Fui-On Shing ...
Ming Leung ...
Yiu's Father
Shui-Jan Fung ...
Ching's Mother
Yuen-Tat Chan ...
Kau Suk
Shu-Kei Law ...
Prison Warden
Yin Nam ...
Prisoner's Head


An explosive crime-drama that caused a sensation upon its release. Audiences gasped for breath from the bloodshed and violence, yet were deeply moved by the fraternal bond between the two leading characters. Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung are riveting as the inmates who get involved with the intracacies of the prision system. Written by Towne 3, San Jose, Ca

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

13 November 1987 (Hong Kong)  »

Also Known As:

Prison Turbulence  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


41671: Be tolerant - you gain peace and calm. Be humble - you reach new horizon.
See more »


Spoofed in Island of Fire (1990) See more »


Light of Friendship
Performed by Maria Codero
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User Reviews

Slowburns to a devastating climax
8 August 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This Chinese prison drama is a film that just gets better as it goes along. It starts off on the usual ground, with a green inmate unfairly sent to jail, and before long all the prison movie clichés are coming out: the ruthlessly corrupt guards, the rival prison factions and the tough gang bosses and inevitable riots. So far, so typical. But then the film pulls an ace from its sleeve with the presence of Chow Yun-Fat, pretty much playing the opposite of his John Woo tough cop character as a friendly, humorous fellow prisoner who befriends the lead and helps him find his way around.

Chow Yun-Fat is excellent in this film. I don't want to spoil the plot too much, but his character undergoes a gradual transformation as he becomes involved in the violent politics of prison life, and come the climax he's giving an unforgettable, show-stopping turn as an ordinary guy pushed to the limit…and beyond. Bestial, inhuman and altogether frightening, this is Chow Yun-Fat like you've never seen him before.

The Chinese star isn't the only good thing about PRISON ON FIRE. Ringo Lam, an underrated director, more than holds his own against John Woo. This film is the definition of the word "slowburning", gradually building up to one of the most unforgettably violent endings of the era. The fact that it takes a long time to get to that stage just makes it all the more effective. What's interesting is that the chief villain in this – officer Scarface, played by Roy Cheung – is far more of a subtle presence than usual for this genre. Instead of making the lives of his prisoners a misery with punishment and violence, he actually seems like an all right type of guy before you realise his talent for backstabbing and betraying, turning one against the other.

The other cast members are particularly good here; Tony Leung (DUMPLINGS) convinces as the mild-mannered convict not cut out for prison life, and Sammo Hung lookalike Ka-Kui Ho is fine as the gang leader you don't want to fall foul of (kudos to the filmmakers for making him an ordinary guy, slightly overweight and wearing glasses, instead of the usual bodybuilder type). Kwong Leung Wong also shines as gang leader Billy, a man who initially appears to be yet another villain but soon becomes a key ally. PRISON ON FIRE is a delightful movie that more than holds its own against later prison flick ISLAND ON FIRE.

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