FULL ALERT (KO DOU GAI BEI) (Ringo Lam, 1997)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Sunday, June 28, 2:00
Festival runs June 26 - July 8
The fourteenth annual New York Asian Film Festival is saluting legendary Hong Kong director Ringo Lam, presenting him with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Lam, who turns sixty this year, will be at Lincoln Center for screenings of two of his works, City on Fire on June 27 and Full Alert on June 28. In the latter, Lam’s follow-up to his disappointing Hollywood debut, the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Maximum Risk, Lau Ching-wan stars as Officer Pao, a member of Hong Kong’s Special Crime Bureau who becomes involved in a case that turns deeply personal. After arresting explosives expert Mak Kwan (Francis Ng) for the brutal murder of an architect, Pao is determined to find the rest of Mak’s Taiwanese crew, which is led by mainland boss Jie (Jack Gao), and prevent the robbery of a mysterious vault. Pao and his team track Mak’s girlfriend, Chung Lai Hung (Amanda Lee), who knows more than she’s letting on, while Pao and Mak become immersed in a tense, psychological game of cat and mouse, exploring what it feels like to kill someone. There are numerous incredulous plot twists and a rather lame car chase, but the guerrilla filmmaking style of Lam and cinematographer Ardy Lam, ranging through the streets of a Hong Kong about to be handed over from the British to the Chinese, is supremely effective, as are the lead performances by Lau and Ng, evoking the relationships portrayed earlier by Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Michael Mann’s Heat and later by Andy Lau and Tony Leung in Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs. The use of mobile phones and surveillance technology feels much older than 1997, displaying how far we have come so fast. Lam saves the heavy violence for the spectacular finale, letting the emotions build before exploding. Nominated for five Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor (Lau), Full Alert is screening at the Walter Reade Theater on June 28 at 2:00, with Lam on hand to introduce it. The New York Asian Film Festival continues at Lincoln Center through July 6 with more than three dozen new and old films from China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Cambodia, and other Southeast Asian countries, including Sabu’s Chasuke’s Journey, Kinji Fukasuku’s Battles without Honor and Humanity, Im Sang-soo’s The President’s Last Bang, Wang Xiaoshuai’s Red Amnesia, Im Kwon-taek’s Revivre, and Sion Sono’s Tokyo Tribe.