36 user 34 critic

City on Fire (1987)

Lung foo fung wan (original title)
An undercover cop infiltrates a gang of thieves who plan to rob a jewelry store.


Ringo Lam


Ringo Lam (story), Sai-Shing Shum (scriptwriter) (as Tommy Sham) | 1 more credit »

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2 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Yun-Fat Chow ... Ko Chow (as Chow Yun Fat)
Yueh Sun ... Inspector Lau / Uncle Kung (as Yeuh Sun)
Danny Lee ... Fu (as Danny Sau Yin Lee)
Carrie Ng ... Hung
Roy Cheung ... Inspector John Chan
Kong Lau ... Inspector Chow
Elvis Tsui ... Chan Kam-Wah (as Kam-kong Tsui)
Yeh Fang ... Chow Nam
Chi Fai Chan ... Chen Ching / Tai Song
Mang-Ha Cheng ... Chow's Grandmother (as Mang-ha Cheung)
Parkman Wong ... Ah Man
Bo-San Chow ... Lily
Victor Hon ... Bill
Kwong Leung Wong ... Kwong
Maria Cordero Maria Cordero ... Lounge Singer


Ko Chow is about to resign from the police force when he is asked to take on one more case. He is to go undercover in a gang that is robbing jewellery stores. He accepts the task and successfully infiltrates the gang. It is a very dangerous mission, not just because the gang might discover his true identity but because many of the police suspect he may well be a criminal. Written by grantss

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Action | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



Hong Kong


Cantonese | Mandarin | English

Release Date:

13 February 1987 (Hong Kong) See more »

Also Known As:

City on Fire See more »

Filming Locations:

Hong Kong, China

Company Credits

Production Co:

Cinema City See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Karl Mak, the producer, gave four million HK dollars to Lam towards the film's budget, giving Lam absolute freedom to make any genre of film he wanted. See more »


Reflections in some scenes. See more »


Ko Chow: [after Wah is killed, Inspector Lau asks Ko Chow to go undercover again, but Chow wants out] I sent in my resignation.
Inspector Lau: I never got it.
Ko Chow: Look for it.
Inspector Lau: Chow, only you know the people that Wah did. You asked for this, remember? You can resign... once we've captured the killers.
Ko Chow: Last time with Shing, it went bad.
Inspector Lau: What went bad? We got him.
Ko Chow: I betrayed a friend.
Inspector Lau: You helped capture scum, all right? This friend ordered the deaths of hundreds. He had to die. You're a cop. Who told you to make friends with ...
See more »

Alternate Versions

The US version has scenes cut out See more »


Featured in Honest Trailers: Stranger Things (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

Ringo Lam's gangster thriller
26 October 2002 | by Bogey ManSee all my reviews

Ringo Lam's perhaps most famous and influential film is this, CITY ON FIRE, from 1987. It was Quentin Tarantino's inspiration for his Reservoir Dogs (1992), and Quentin wanted to express his admiration and passion for Hong Kong film makers and their films by updating Lam's themes for his debut film. Reservoir is definitely not any rip off like some have suggested, it a tribute.

Chow Yun-Fat plays cop Chow, who has traumatic past as he betrayed his criminal friend to the police force. Danny Lee plays criminal boss Fu, whose gang is terrorizing the town with numerous robberies and the forthcoming, big robbery of a jewelry store. Chow and Fu become friends as Chow's mission is again to go undercover to Fu's gang and give details to the police about the robbery so the criminals could be arrested and sent to jail. Unfortunately, Chow notices it is too late to undo what he's done again, and again he finds himself betraying a friend, but this time the results are more horrific.

The theme of the film is friendship and loyalty between two people at opposite sides of the law. Chow and Fu start to like each other and more importantly, Fu starts to trust Chow, who in this case isn't a trustworthy friend. The end scene again is pretty harrowing as Fu learns the truth and Chow gets to know the price. Two years later Danny Lee and Chow Yun-Fat would play similar roles in John Woo's The Killer (1989), in which Lee is the cop and Chow the criminal/killer. These themes are very usual in Hong Kong action thrillers, in which people love and value their friends and are ready to die for them.

City on Fire is pretty gritty and violent gangster depiction and the finale in the storehouse is the film's most memorable and stunning segment. The lightning and blue color is used to the maximum effect and it gives the kind of punch only Hong Kong cinema seems to be able to give. Never have I seen such a strong use of atmospheric smoke and blue than in these Hong Kong films, and the finale of CITY ON FIRE is as gorgeous looking as the scenes in Danny Lee's true crime thriller Dr. Lamb, 1992.

CITY ON FIRE, however, suffers a little because of weak characters and that especially Chow isn't too well written and doesn't act as believably as possible. For example, the difficulties he has with his girlfriend are not handled too carefully as we don't know does Chow love her and want to live with her or not. Occasionally he seems to be in love with her, but then he may leave her waiting for him hours and seems not to understand what she's so sad for. Their relationship should have been more carefully and deeper written. Also, the scene in the restaurant when Chow informs about his willingness to delay their wedding because of his mission is almost unbearably cold and unemotional as the girl visibly suffers and cries inside and doesn't even get a proper answer or reason for this from Chow. Not very well written scene at all.

Also I'm little irritated by the fact that the gunshot wound in the stomach is depicted so un-painfully. Tim Roth suffers the whole Reservoir Dogs's running time with a bullet in his stomach, and that is definitely a realistic depiction of such a horrific result of violence. In CITY ON FIRE, the character (without spoiling) just sits there and holds his tummy a little and seems not to bleed or suffer at all. There should have been little more realism as was in Tarantino's film. Otherwise the brief gun battles and acts of violence are realistic and not glorified: when bullets hits a person, he most likely dies as in real life, too. CITY ON FIRE isn't a so called "bullet ballet" film with huge amount of gun play action, and the violence in CITY ON FIRE is brutal and remorseless and never without its consequences.

I give CITY ON FIRE 7/10 and it is still very remarkable film because its interesting themes and the gorgeous atmospheric finale which should be seen in big screen because this film, like many others, suffers and loses its power when seen on video and small TV screen. Ringo Lam is among my favorite Hong Kong directors and his real, unbelievable, masterpiece FULL CONTACT (1992, starring again Chow) finally established him among the greatest Hong Kong directors and in the action genre, at the same position with John Woo.

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