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Full Contact

In Hong Kong cinema, all roads lead to Anthony Wong — the actor (full name Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) has appeared in 106 HK productions since 1989 and has worked with all the major directors and stars in the region (with the exception of Wong Kar Wai). And though he's been the leading man in a number of films, most notably horror efforts like The Untold Story (1992) and The Ebola Syndrome (1996) and directed two pictures as well, he's one of the great supporting actors. His role in 1992's Xia dao Gao Fei ("Full Contact") — one of the ten films he made that year, along with John Woo's Hard Boiled — is one his most complex. He plays Sam, the sidekick/best friend to motorcycle-riding, butterfly-knife-flipping Jeff (Chow Yun-Fat), who's always getting Sam out of trouble. After owing a loan shark an exorbitant sum, Sam gets Jeff together with Judge (Simon Yam, played so flamingly gay that at one point he eats a hot dog sans bun) to stage a robbery. But Jeff so humiliated the money lender that Judge is asked to kill Jeff during the heist — a responsibility that eventually is shifted to Sam. Sam shoots Jeff, but both survive. Jeff then plots his revenge while Sam marries Jeff's girlfriend (who thinks Jeff is dead) and works under Judge, becoming embittered and mean. When Jeff returns, he guilts Sam into giving up Judge and his gang. Directed by Ringo Lam (who's City on Fire is considered the main influence on Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs), nothing in the director's filmography can prepare a viewer for what follows; Full Contact plays like a film noir with the perverse underpinnings of a picture like Johnny Guitar. This is Lam's masterpiece, and everything in the film clicks. He even stages his actions scenes a bit differently than most Hong Kong directors: In Woo (and his acolytes) there is a sense of poetry and movement, while Lam concentrates on the velocity of a blow, giving every punch and gunshot a forceful presence. Though it was Woo's style that swept through America, Lam also reinvents the action film just as capably here, and he too has moments of poetry (Chow gets to dangle his bloody knife in rain as it gets washed off). And though Chow Yun Fat delivers an excellent turn, it is Wong who steals the show with a complex performance. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of Full Contact features anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame transfers with Dolby 2.0 stereo audio in Mandarin and dubbed English. Bonus trailers, keep-case.

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