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Issue #167a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES July 7th, 2003

Full Alert
(1997; Brilliant Idea Group/The Young Filmmakers)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Go do gaai bei
Mandarin: Gao du jie bei
English: High Level Readiness

Ringo Lam Ling-tung helmed this grim, highly engrossing crime thriller, which is highlighted by deeper characterization than HK genre films are generally known for. When a bloated, decomposing body is discovered in an apartment building's water tank, police officer Pao (Lau Ching-wan) arrests former construction demolitionist Mak Kwan (Francis Ng Chun-yu). After blue prints and bomb making materials are discovered in his apartment, Mak confesses that he accidentally killed the victim and hid his body but will not admit to anything else. Mak's Taiwanese partners (who include CITY OF SADNESS' Jack Gao Jie) make a desperate attempt to rescue their buddy while he is being transported to court. In the subsequent chaos, one of the their men is killed and Pao loses one of his in a car crash. Mak is later able to escape with some inside help, so the police concentrate on his girlfriend (Amanda Lee Wai-man). The mounting pressure on Pao causes him to become reckless and, in an attempt to apprehend Mak, he wounds an innocent motorcyclist. The police are eventually able to determine that Mak's target is the safe at the HK Jockey Club. While it seems an impossible task, Mak is an architectural design expert and has determined the one weak spot that will allow him access.

Lau Ching-wan and Francis Ng are both excellent as the adversaries compelled to best one another in a competition that is akin to a children's game with deadly consequences for those around them. Very well shot and scored, the film includes a bravura car chase that seems to encompass half of HK, but action and violence are not the main preoccupations here. While Lam's previous HK thrillers boast colorful antagonists, Mak Kwan is a far more intelligent and humane individual. The viewer does not condone his actions but does empathize with him, and this attention to character (which also extends to the various officers under Pao's command) and clever scripting make FULL ALERT one of Lam's most striking and gratifying works to date. Monica Chan Fat-yung (as Pao's concerned wife), Chin Kar-lok, Peter Yung Kam-cheung, Chris Lee Kin-sang, and Lee Siu-kei, are among the supporting players.

Cover art courtesy Mei Ah.

Lau Ching-wan. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

Francis Ng. Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Mei Ah #DVD-057 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 2.1

Sync Sound Cantonese and Dubbed Mandarin Language Tracks

Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Bahasa

20 Chapters -- No Illustrations or Menu Guide

Letterboxed (1.75:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

99 Minutes

Contains moderate violence

DVD menu courtesy Mei Ah.

Australia: MA 15+ (Medium Level Violence)
Great Britain: 15
Hong Kong: IIB
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]

The 1.85:1 feature is presented at 1.75:1 and looks good, aside from some mild, intermittent haziness. The interpositive source material is very clean and attractive but the digital compression is dodgy, with some smearing apparent. As the film was shot with sync sound and contains a mix of Cantonese and Mandarin, the former track is certainly preferable and also sounds a bit better; stereo separations are fairly subdued but effective. There are no extras or time coding and the 20 chapters are simply placed every five minutes, not marking anything specific.

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