[My first piece for Fandor’s Keyframe went live today. Here’s the feature, a brief analysis for Ringo Lam’s Full Contact]
Bullet ballet maestro John Woo was lured to Hollywood in 1992, leaving his country on his ultimate Hong Kong bullet-fest spectacle, Hard Boiled. It’s fitting, perhaps, that Full Contact, still Ringo Lam‘s most celebrated film, came out the same year. Stripped down and savage where Woo is big, busy, and whirring with more flying bullets than a small war, you could call Full Contact the anti-John Woo Hong Kong gangster film. Where Woo prized loyalty under fire—even adversaries found themselves bonding via bullets—for Lam, violence is the catalyst for mistrust, betrayal and a poisoning of one’s character by hate and vengeance.
Full Contact is also Lam’s answer to the American crime movie, driven by the hyperactive energy that powered the entire Hong Kong industry and populated by crazed, unstable personalities extreme even by HK movie standards. It’s all about devoted friends colliding with treacherous partners, with betrayal, vengeance and collateral damage left in its wake. Three buddies join forces for a heist that leaves one dead, another maimed, and the third forced to betray his best friend or die. Loyalty under fire only destroys what family they have left, and reveals the weaknesses of the survivors.