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August is another good month for Hong Kong Legends releases, and first to fall under my reviewer’s gaze is Ringo Lam's spectacularly violent gunplay movie, Full Contact. Featuring three of the biggest names in Hong Kong action cinema—Chow Yun-Fat, Simon Yam and Anthony Wong—the film is a bloody tale of betrayal and revenge with more than a liberal sprinkling of ultra-violence.

Full Contact
Film
When his friend, Sam Sei (Anthony Wong), finds himself in debt to a ruthless loan shark, nightclub bouncer Gou Fei (Chow Yun-fat) reluctantly agrees to help him out. Together with their mutual friend, Chung, they team up with Sam Sei’s cousin, the ruthless and totally insane Judge (Simon Yam), and his partners in crime, the muscle-bound Psycho (Frankie Chin), and the nymphomaniac Virgin (Bonnie Fu), to pull off a daring heist.

However, Judge has struck a deal with the loan shark to eliminate the rival gang, and during the robbery he kills Chung and coerces Sam Sei into betraying his friends. Left for dead by his so-called partners, Gou Fei plots his revenge—an act guaranteed to result in explosive consequences. What follows is a series of adrenaline pumping shootouts as Fei goes about disrupting one of Judge’s major arms deals, which ends in a climactic showdown between the two action superstars.

After a confused, somewhat rushed opening act, Full Contact settles down to become a pretty decent gunplay flick. The action is intense, and sometime brutal, while the standard of the acting is good throughout, most notably from Chow Yun-fat, Anthony Wong and Simon Yam. In fact, it is Yam’s gay villain who is the most interesting; camping it up even while locked in an intense battle with his arch enemy. In his interview Simon Yam mentions that he fought with director Ringo Lam for the right to lend certain traits to his character, such as his constant flirting with Gou Fei. It certainly pays off.

Full Contact
Chow Yun-fat and Anthony Wong deliver more conventional performances, although the sudden conversion of Wong’s character from gun-shy coward into cold-blooded killer is somewhat unbelievable. Special mention must go to Anne Bridgewater, who plays the part of Fei’s pole-dancing girlfriend Mona (ok, so there aren’t actually any poles, but you get the idea). The Eurasian actress turns in a decent performance, and I was surprised to hear that her career faltered after this movie. While less impressive, performances from Frankie Chin and Bonnie Fu—as Psycho and Virgin respectively—certainly leave a lasting impression!

Video
As with most of the recent Hong Kong Legends releases, the anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is very respectable. There is little in the way of print damage or other artefacts, and while the image is a little softer than the very best releases it’s still reasonably sharp. Colour rendition is also very good, with naturalistic skin tones and a vibrant palette that shows off some of the more exotic locales very nicely. Black levels and shadow delineation are also excellent, which is particularly important during the many scenes set at night time or in dingy clubs. I wouldn’t say this was up there with the very best restoration work that Hong Kong Legends has ever done, but it’s not a million miles off.

Audio
The disc includes the customary Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in both Cantonese and dubbed English. Those of you looking to experience the film as its intended should stick with the Cantonese track, and the quality of the dub is predictably poor. On a related note, the English subtitles that accompany the Cantonese track have a couple of grammatical errors (“You’re want some money?” for example).

Full Contact
The 5.1 tracks on Hong Kong Legends releases tend to be heavily biased towards the front of the soundstage, and Full Contact is no exception. Utilisation of the surrounds is infrequent to say the least, and when they do come into play it’s in a fairly uninspiring manner (although this is hardly surprising given the origins of the source material). Thankfully dialogue is clear throughout, and while the many gunshots and explosions lack the kick of a modern soundtrack they’re all perfectly audible. Lack of bass is another feature of Hong Kong Legends tracks, and while it doesn’t hurt the audio terribly it would be nice if the gunshots packed a little more punch. I don’t want to be too negative though, as this is an entirely capable track that does justice to the source material.

Extras
It’s Bey Logan commentary time again, only this time he’s brought a friend—the ‘First of the North Star’ himself, Gary Daniels! I have to say I find Daniels’ inclusion on this track somewhat baffling, because as far as I can tell he has no affiliation with the film. Ah well, it’s Bey who does most of the talking (surprise, surprise I hear you say), and aside from his brief introduction it takes Gary a full three minutes to get his first word in! All things considered this is another good commentary, with plenty of interesting and insightful moments, but I have to admit to preferring Bey’s solo efforts (Premier Asia releases excepted). One thing that did strike me as somewhat odd was the way in which the pair kept using the characters ‘dubbed’ names, almost as if they were in fact watching a dubbed version of the film (or at the very least a version with radically different subtitles).

The first of the included featurettes is entitled Ballistic Kiss, and it takes a behind the scenes look at Hong Kong gunplay techniques. The observant among you will notice that the title of this featurette is named after a movie written and directed by a certain Bey Logan, which is purely coincidental, I’m sure… Anyway, this is a fascinating look at the techniques behind some of the most explosive action set pieces in the world, and I was hooked throughout the entirety of the twenty-minute running time. Special effects wizards, gun experts, and stuntmen guide us through everything there is to know about rigging a convincing squib, or how to convincingly shoot the top of someone’s head off. This is done both through an example action scene—in which the guys act out an arrest gone wrong—and the deconstruction of the various techniques by relevant experts. Footage from films such as The Killer, Bullet in the Head, Tiger on the Beat and A Better Tomorrow 2 is interspersed throughout. All in all this makes for essential viewing for anyone even remotely interested in Hong Kong gunplay movies.

Full Contact
The first of the disc’s two interviews is entitled Malice Aforethought, and features prolific action star Simon Yam. Either Yam has serious wardrobe issues, or this interview was conducted at the same time as his Bullet in the Head effort, but it still makes for another reasonably informative piece. Simon discusses everything from director Ringo Lam to his character’s sexual orientation (specifically how Hong Kong audiences of the day were unable to accept the character), and as usual there are plenty of clips from the film sprinkled throughout the proceedings. However, without wishing to sound disrespectful, I did have a slight problem with the interview—Simon’s somewhat laboured English. Personally I would have been happier if I the interview had been conducted in Cantonese with English subtitles. I feel this would have given Yam the freedom to fully express himself, rather than muddling through in his second language.

A similar criticism can be levied at the second interview, Muscle Heat, which features Malaysian actor Frankie Chin. Chin’s grasp of English is better than Yam’s, which makes things a lot easier to follow. Even so, I would have preferred that the interview had been conducted in his native tongue. In contract to Yam’s interview, a slightly older (and very much balder) Frankie Chin discusses how he got into the business, running his own gym, and the meeting with Ringo Lam that lead to his casting in Full Contact. He also talks about the technical and logistical aspects of the filmmaking process, such as the difficulties of shooting in the heat of Thailand and the inherent communication issues. Chin also shares a story about Chow Yun-fat and his pyrotechnic misfortune. Chow’s hand was quite badly burned during the scene in which his character is trapped in an intense blaze, but the actor carried on to complete the scene regardless of the pain—what a guy!

The extras are completed with a trailer gallery that includes both the teaser and theatrical trailers, and the now customary Bey Logan biography. The main menu also includes a further attractions submenu, which grants access to trailers and film notes on various Hong Kong Legends and Premier Asia titles.

Full Contact
Overall
This is yet another solid release from the people at Hong Kong Legends, and a fairly enjoyable film to boot. I don’t consider it the classic that many do, largely because of the confused opening act and ludicrous ending that was almost certainly tacked on as a crowd pleaser, but it is a highly enjoyable romp nonetheless. Chow Yun-fat, Simon Yam and Anthony Wong all turn in decent performances, and as before, special mention must go to the lovely Anne Bridgewater.

The disc itself features excellent visuals that more than make up for the slightly disappointing audio and comparatively small selection of bonus material. However, if the disc had managed to include more features of the quality of the commentary and Ballistic Kiss featurette I would have been more inclined to hand out a higher score. With that said, this will still make an excellent addition to any self respecting Hong Kong film fanatic’s collection, and as such it comes recommended.


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