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Hans Wadsten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Film maker Chu Yin-Ping's Island of Fire (1990, Hong Kong) stars Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Andy Lau and Tony Leung and they're all great. Tony plays a cop who goes undercover into one infamous prison in order to search for the truth behind one criminal who was supposed to be dead but seems not to be that way. Jackie plays a sort of lowlife who kills a man and is sent to the prison. Andy plays a violent triad boss who seeks revenge for the man who killed his brother. Sammo is a man who misses his son and occasionally breaks free from the prison in order to see him, and is always badly beaten as a punishment. Living in that prison is dangerous and so are the wardens, and once violence finally reaches a horrific climax mostly because of Leung's character, some new aspects about the prison death sentences and those "killed" are revealed.
Director Chu has made many films which include a violent and gritty triad film Requital (1992) and Island has some familiar elements from that film, too. Fortunately Island omits all the possible comic situations which too often destroy many otherwise great or noteworthy HK films and make them more than irritating to watch. Island is serious and pretty dark film and that is a great thing.
There are couple of great and also emotional scenes which include the rice eating scene and Sammo meeting his son scene, but they remain a little separate as they don't, after all, give too much to the whole story, characters and film content and they just serve to give those scenes themselves some touching and dramatic elements without adding anything which would mean something important for the whole film. So this film is pretty shallow and misses any message or themes it may had been able to have. It has some heroic (bloodshed) scenes and scenes depicting the friendship and loyalty between the prisoners and those scenes are among the greatest things this film can give, but they are never handled as far as John Woo does, for example. Also, the ending is pretty non-believable but still great and gritty action scene which also could have meant something more than it now does. The gratuitous final image is there just to make the film look nicer and leave sweeter taste to the mouth, and thus it is pretty commercial and unnecessary, I think.
The film concentrates on to give us fierce martial arts fights and equally fierce gun battles and as a pure action film this film succeeds and should please the junkies of HK action cinema, but if one prefers films with something more than just action, then Island of Fire isn't among the greatest recommendations. I can appreciate this due to its high impact action and mayhem on screen, again something never/rarely equaled by Western cinema, but still I give this "just" 6/10.
The British DVD by Hong Kong Legends includes the rare deleted scenes (approx. 30 minutes) which were included only in the Taiwanese version of the film. They give many new aspects to the film character's and in a way improve the film. Also the interview with the director is among the most interesting (albeit brief) extras I've seen in any DVD.
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