Updated: Mar 3, 2019
While John Woo is undoubtedly the most famous “bullet ballet” choreographer among general audiences, the late Ringo Lam is arguably even more influential (of particular note, his high-octane heist flick City on Fire is often cited as the primary inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs). And if Full Contact is any indication, it’s not difficult to see why: this delightfully over-the-top revenge thriller features all of the ingredients that make Hong Kong action cinema so appealing—heroic bloodshed, motorcycles, explosions, training montages, disorienting P.O.V. shots, camp gay criminals that perform lethal magic tricks, copious Buddhist iconography, and (of course!) guns galore. This is a movie that begins with a striptease and ends with our protagonist (played by the incomparable Chow Yun-fat) telling his foe to “masturbate in Hell” (quite possibly the single greatest pre-mortem one-liner ever uttered); the word “subtlety” does not exist in its vocabulary. In fact, the performances and visual style are so deliberately exaggerated that it’s basically a musical with fistfights and shootouts instead of songs… and I adored every absurd moment of it. The current post-post-postmodernist sensibilities of the industry don’t really support earnestly ridiculous stories like this anymore. Full Contact doesn’t feel the need to justify its excesses with irony or self-awareness; like its nihilistic villain, it simply embraces its own insanity—unapologetically, unashamedly, and unabashedly.