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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
"We thieves have to die with a clean conscience."
DVD ReviewChow Yun-Fat's star power didn't survive its Pacific crossing intact, things like Bulletproof Monk and Anna and the King make clear, but for a while there, in Hong Kong in the early 1990s, he was the most charismatic leading man on the planet. His most celebrated work from this period probably came in collaboration with director John Woo, also now a Hollywood refugee—movies like The Killer and Hard Boiled established Woo as a terrifically kinetic director of action and movie violence, and Chow as his favorite onscreen hero. In this film, Chow is working with director Ringo Lam, probably a close second to Woo on the Hong Kong action scene, and if Full Contact is more than a little silly, it's got some exuberant and ultraviolent bits that make it worth a look.
The film asks the age-old question: is there, in fact, honor among thieves? Chow plays Godfrey, whose buddy Sam is in over his head with gambling debts; they're going to pull off a big score, and square things away between Sam and Judge, to whom Sam is indebted. But things go awry, and it's the old double-cross—Godfrey is left for dead, betrayed by Sam and in a building seconds away from exploding. Since it's Chow playing Godfrey, though, he escapes from this perilous circumstance that would thwart any other mere mortal, and plots how best to avenge himself on those that committed this apostasy.
Of course, in a movie like this, the plot is just the necessary convenience that holds together the many scenes of balletic, almost cartoony violence. It's the kind of movie in which, when a cop tells a bad guy to move his car, the bad guy busts out a semi-automatic and pumps the officer of the law full of lead. Things are made pretty clear all throughout—the guys like to hang in what's not quite a strip bar but the closest thing that would still get an R rating, and thumping on the stereo system is a song featuring these lyrics: "If you don't like what you see here / Get the f*** out." You can't say you haven't been warned.
It's kind of fun to see Chow as a badass—in Woo's movies, he's usually a good man tortured by the necessity of resorting to violence, but there are no such pangs of guilt here. The action scenes are what yoke this all together, and they work; they range from Chow shooting skeet with bottles of Perrier to lots and lots of shattered glass to a sort of bullet-cam, in which the camera tracks with the ammo as it leaves the barrel of Chow's gun. You can also place this movie in its period merely by observing its technology—at one point, everyone on screen oohs and ahhs at the novelty of a cell phone the size of a shoebox.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: The picture can be a little jumpy, and it seems as if it's a fault of the transfer, and not the camera operator; also, occasionally it looks like a frame or two drops out, which is a little jarring. Lam's composition in the anamorphic option looks pretty solid; the cropped, pan-and-scan version frequently lops off people's elbows, or the tops of their heads, but I guess some people still just can't abide those black bars.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The original Chinese track sounds fairly clean, but the actors hired to dub this into English seem to be refugees from the Kung Fu Theater stuff of the early 1970s. Also, the English audio track doesn't match up with the subtitles—this extends even to character names, for on the audio, Chow's character has been Anglicized not to Godfrey, but to Jeffrey.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lockdown, So Close, Once a Thief
Extras Review: One of the trailers trumpets this DVD release along with that of another Chow Hong Kong action picture from the same period, John Woo's Once a Thief. Two other trailers and many chapter stops are the only other extras you'll find here.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsNobody in recent memory rips it up on screen quite like Chow Yun-Fat, and if this isn't the most elegant action picture, it's full of enough artful violence to keep fans happy.
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