Introduction by Ringo Lam
Ringo Lam’s last so-called truly important movie before his 12-year retirement is a dark, glittering gem of a police procedural that doubles as a masterclass in understatement. Lam doesn’t need to beat audiences over the head with the drama, finding it instead in setting up two gangs (a bunch of cops and a bunch of crooks), making sure we understand how intelligent and ruthless they both are, and then letting them face off on the streets of Hong Kong.
Arresting a failed architect (Francis Ng) for a routine murder, Lau Ching-wan’s gang of cops realize that something bigger is going on here. After all, if Ng is just a bad-tempered loser, what’s he doing with all this bomb-making material? It turns out that Ng is planning a massive heist with some cold-blooded Mainland criminals (and he may even have another plan concealed within that one) and it’s up to Lau and Co. to keep him under surveillance. The only flaw in this plan is that Ng and his hired guns are a lot smarter and much more ruthless than anyone anticipated.
Deceptively simple, Full Alert was shot right before Hong Kong’s handover to China, and it has an elegiac tone, even as cars hurtle down busy streets at 90mph and gunfire erupts in apartment buildings and other settings that have since been bulldozed and replaced with Starbucks and bank branches. What you wind up with is a movie that is a high-caliber tombstone not only to Hong Kong but also to action filmmaking—not to mention humane behavior. An incredible movie that hits audiences hard, Full Alert is a masterpiece in any country.
Presented with the support of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York.