Chow Yun-Fat made this noir-ish shoot-'em-up a few years after he had starred in John Woo's The Killer and Hard-Boiled. Director Ringo Lam works with similar themes in Full Contact. He stages some exciting gonzo action sequences and he has a bizarre sense of humor, but he lacks the deeper sense of purpose that makes Woo's best films so memorable.
O.K., that said, a young energetic Chow Yun-Fat delivers a kick-ass performance and that's about all you need to know.
Chow is Godfrey (or Geoff in the English language audio; more about that later), nightclub bouncer and all around stand-up guy. When his buddy Sam (Anthony Wong, terrific as usual) gets into trouble with a loan shark, Godfrey helps out. He then finds himself forced into a partnership with Judge (Simon Yat), a madly flamboyant gay villain who already has a couple of colorful henchpersons—the slutty Yin (Bonnie Fu) and her muscle-bound boyfriend Madman (Franklin Chin). Godfrey and Judge plan an armored car job. You know the rest of the drill: robbery goes bad; betrayal; hero horribly wounded; rehab; revenge.
The Columbia disc is a solid step up from the old Tai Seng tape. (I haven't seen the Tai Seng DVD.) The anamorphic widescreen (1.85) image appears to be an accurate transfer of a typically bright Hong Kong original. Virtually all of the interiors and daylight exteriors are fine. A few of the night scenes—particularly extreme close-ups—are so dark that many details are lost. That probably comes from the source.
The Dolby stereo will sound weak to anyone accustomed to the 5.1 Assault-on-the-Senses Surround that's used in most American action movies. Lam is interested in smaller details. To appreciate those you need to choose the Cantonese audio option. The first difference between it and the English dub is the names, at least in the subtitles. Yin is Virgin; Madman is Dino, etc. More importantly, the English audio contains different music in some scenes. One of the first big fights, for example, has intrusive music cues that distract from the sounds of rainwater ringing on Godfrey's knife. It's a small point, but a telling one. (The switch to English dialog in the Cantonese version in chapter 20 is intentional.)
The disc is a bare bones affair with little to offer beyond the choice of widescreen and full-frame rations. We've also got three previews for Lockdown, Once a Thief/Full Contact, and So Close; English, French and Spanish subs; closed captions. Commentary from an expert who could put the film in context for the director and star might have been instructive.
Distribution of Hong Kong movies being what it is, Full Contact has not exactly been easy to find over the years. I'm not sure how many of Chow Yun-Fat's fans know about it. If you are a fan and you haven't seen this one, get a copy right away! Your education is not complete. Bottom line, then—even if the disc is less than perfect, at least it's out there, and the movie itself is a lot more enjoyable and lively than the current crop of action movies that are built on computer effects, not characters.