Plot: What’s it about?
Pao (Lau Ching Wan) is a police inspector who will stop at nothing to capture his targets and place them behind bars for good. His newest chase is even more slippery and hard to catch than usual and serves as a special case indeed. Mac Kwan (Francis Ng) has been in prison before for breaking the laws, but he managed to escape in time to begin a new criminal plan. As soon as Pao learns of this situation he sets his sights on Mac and decides to bring him in no matter what it takes. As fate would have it Pao will have to go to extremes in order to stay on Mac’s trail, but he perseveres and remains only a few steps behind. The distance between the two closes at a rapid rate and it seems as though time is running out for Mac, until the truth is discovered about his new plan. Mac has plans to lead a Taiwanese gang into a robbery which targets the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which means Pao may have to change his strategy in order to achieve success.
I was drawn to this film because of the director Ringo Lam, but the film went in a different direction than I expected. I knew it would be a well crafted crime tale with violent edges, but I had no idea the characters would be so complex and well defined. I was so involved in the storyline and character interactions, I had no time to miss the action usually present in Lam’s films. Now this movie has some gunplay and violence included, but not at same frequency that I was expecting. But this is not a bad thing by any means as the writing more than makes up the slack. I was impressed with this film on many levels and will revisit in the future I am sure. I’m not sure how others will like it though, but if you need action all the time then this isn’t a movie for you. If you’re looking for a well written and performed crime based film however, this one would make a perfect choice. The disc has solid video and audio, but the lack of supplements makes it hard to recommend. I choose to recommend this title as a rental, but only purchase if you like the movie a lot because this disc is bare of bonus features.
This film was directed by Ringo Lam, who also wrote the story and helped pen the screenplay. While this film is not as action driven and explosive as some of Lam’s other films, I feel this is balanced out with a terrific storyline and set of characters. I like the crime syndicate atmosphere this movie is laced with and Lam does a fine turn in capturing a tense and dangerous world. I think the enhanced focus on the story only goes to prove Lam’s range as a filmmaker, which is much to his credit. If you want to see more of Lam’s films I recommend Prison On Fire 1 & 2, City On Fire, The Victim, and Replicant. The lead role in this film is played by Lau Ching Wan (Black Mask, Heroic Trio 2: Executioners) who does a great job of bringing this character to life. He manages to bring the inner turmoil of the character to the surface in a subtle, controlled fashion that seems to work very well. The supporting cast is also good and features Francis Ng (The Bride With White Hair, Gen X Cops), Amanda Lee (Hong Kong Graffiti, Shanghai Grand), and Monica Chan (Option Zero, Haunted Karaoke).
Video: How does it look?
Full Alert is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. The main flaw I find with this image is the softness found, which tends to mute colors and lighten the contrast. But this isn’t to an extreme degree and is never distracting, although it is worth pointing out. The colors seem bright in most scenes and show no traces of smearing or bleeding, with flesh tones looking normal and consistent also. The contrast is a little on the bright side but still gets the job done, no detail seems to be lost or overexposed. I saw some slight edge enhancement but no other compression errors.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release uses a stereo audio track which seems to handle all the elements without too much trouble. Some scenes would sound much better in a full surround track, but this track gives them an adequate sound so I won’t complain much. The music sounds good and suffers from no distortion and the effects come through without overshadowing the other elements. The dialogue sounds clean and is at a proper volume. Languages include Cantonese and Mandarin and subtitles are included in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Bahasa.
Supplements: What are the extras?
On a sad note this release contains no bonus materials. Perhaps Tai Seng will choose to revisit this title in the future and add supplements, because I know we all want them to!