39 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 »
2 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »




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 Bo-San Chow ... Lily
Victor Hon 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

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Yun-Fat Chow and Danny Lee faced a role-reversal two years later when, in John Woo's The Killer (1989), Chow plays a hitman who bonds with Lee, this time appearing as the cop. See more »


When the bad guys and Ko Chow are being chased by the police, they slam into a police car; yet in the next shot, their car remains intact. See more »


Fu: [Fu talks about his family life] You know, my father was a crook. I got it from him. I just hope my son doesn't turn out like me.
Ko Chow: Is your old man still in jail?
Fu: He's been dead for ten years. My father was stupid. He got shot by the police.
Ko Chow: So you despise them?
Fu: Not at all. They were just doing their job, so why should I?
See more »

Alternate Versions

The US version has scenes cut out See more »

User Reviews

Tarantino visits the City On Fire
3 January 2000 | by elihu-2See all my reviews

With all the attention Hong Kong cinema is getting, it becomes almost necessary to describe just how much of an underlying influence it has had on the climate of American film production. John Woo's films, and his subsequent transplant to Hollywood is probably the most publicized outcome of the phenomenon, but there are other, more obscure directors and films that have guided some of today's action film success stories.

Ringo Lam is a contemporary of John Woo, and it seems that his 1987 film CITY ON FIRE was an inspiration, if not out-and-out rip-off source material for Quentin Tarantino's RESERVOIR DOGS. Tarantino certainly borrowed heavily from the film, lifting several key plot points and even action sequences. It seems that Tarantino's talent lies not in originality, but in his ability to tell a story in a non-linear fashion, as evidenced by his re-working of various elements into a tale told in flashback and implication. Chow Yun Fat, the ubiquitous star of the John Woo films A BETTER TOMORROW, THE KILLER, and HARD BOILED, plays Ko Chow, a layabout petty criminal railroaded into service as an undercover agent for the Hong Kong police by the aging, almost washed up Inspector Kwong (Sun Yueh). A ring of jewelry thieves had perpetrated a brutal, well-planned robbery of a prestigious store in a Kowloon high-rise. Under pressure from his superiors, and in the middle of a professional rivalry with a younger inspector, Kwong resorts to using Chow as a creative final option. Equipping him with all the trappings of an arms salesman, he lets Chow loose to find out the identity of the robbers through his underworld connections. After surviving a gangland initiation of sorts, Chow gains the trust of the robbers, and is even befriended by the most brutal of them, Brother Fu (Lee Sau Yin). The gang invites him on its next project, robbing a gold shop in the downtown jewelry district. Meanwhile, when he's on his own, he works out female trouble with his sometime girlfriend, and dodges teams of police sent by the younger inspector who is unaware of his undercover status and suspects him of arms trafficking.

The robbery goes down as planned, except the store alarm is pressed, and police who were already staking out the jewelry district rush to the scene. Fu slays police in their squad cars with far more brutal relish than Harvey Keitel. Temporarily eluding the police, the robbers and Chow rush to their hideout, an abandoned warehouse. There they argue about how to split the spoils, and who among them might be a police informant. All of this culminates in a hail of bullets as the location of the robbers' den is found out, and they are surrounded by a virtual army of police.

Lam has crafted a somber, realistic actioner which would be slightly above average by American standards. It has a little less style than a John Woo film, and is certainly less violent (almost anything is less violent!) but covers essentially the same territory. One can readily pick out what Tarantino culled from this film, and it has a way of clarifying his creative process in that it is possible to see how he molded it into RESERVOIR DOGS using his own sensibilities.

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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 »

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