The Big Heat

Reviewed by Glenn Satele


Stars:  Waise Lee, Chu Kong, Phillip Kwok, Joey Wong

This film was co-directed by Johnny To and written by Gordon Chan.  Although both men would later move on to bigger and better things in a few years, this 1988 "Heroic Bloodshed" (with emphasis on "Bloodshed") film displayed the duo's talents effectively.  Many people are unaware of this film and the main reason is perhaps there are no major stars in this film (i.e., Chow Yun-fat).  What it does have are arguably the best acting performances ever from a couple of career supporting actors (Waise Lee and Chu Kong) and some of the most violent and bloody scenes in a HK film (and that's saying a lot!).
Waise Lee and Chu Kong (Sydney in The Killer)
Waise Lee is a Hong Kong cop named Wong who suffers from a nerve illness in his right hand (the pain equivalency is displayed in gruesome fashion with a power drill plowing through a man's hand!).  His former partner's charred corpse is found in Malaysia and a shipping schedule is found near the body. Wong decides to take on the case despite his lab examiner-fiancee's wishes. He's accompanied by three people: his current partner (Phillip Kwok), a Malaysian cop put on the case by his government and a new recruit straight out of the academy (played annoyingly by Matthew Wong).
Waise and Phillip Kwok (Mad Dog in Hard Boiled)
The shipping schedule leads to the involvement of a shipping magnate (Stuart Ong) and a businessman (Chu Kong) whose goods are being carried on the magnate's freighters.  At this point, the film becomes one big cat-and-mouse game between the cops and Chu Kong (it doesn't take long to figure out he's the bad guy) and there's some bloody confrontations along the way with some unexpected deaths and surprises.  This leads to a great finale between the cops and Chu.
"The Big Heat" is a must if you like this type of film.  The action is inspired and quite original, the characters are well written and show some unique idiosyncrasies which separate them from your typical good guys and villains.
Matthew Wong and Joey Wong
Note to Joey Wong fans:  her part is very small (she plays a nurse and eventually becomes a sort of love interest to the rookie cop) and while she looks fabulous, she's nothing more than window dressing. Michael Chow also has a small but effective part as a hired killer.
Stuart Ong and Chu Kong

My rating for this film: 8.5

Here is an interesting tidbit that was in a Waise Lee interview

"Although credited to two directors, Andrew Kam Yueng-wah and Johnnie To Kei-fung, Waise admits producer Tsui Hark too had a hand in helming The Big Heat. Not long into filming, Hark found Kam’s work dull and unsatisfactory and  replaced him with To. Some time later To got the boot and Tsui finished it off  himself. Lee admits it was trying reshooting parts of scenes months after the initial attempt, but refuses to criticise Tsui. Although formally they were boss and  employee, Lee openly accepts student status and calls Hark his “teacher”.

DVD Information:

Distributed by Mega Star/Media Asia

The picture quality is great, considering the year this film was made(1988).
During the 73rd minute, 2 thick white lines appear on the screen for a couple
of seconds.

Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is not obtrusive or out-of-sync.

Removable subtitles with choices of Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese,
English or Nil.

9 Chapters


Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks (NOTE:  the subtitles are synched to
the Mandarin track, therefore the subtitles drag on the Cantonese track for
about a second)

Includes it's own trailer and the trailers for "Return of the Lucky Stars",
"Three Against the World", and "Blue Lightning".

The film is uncut (Thanks must go to John Charles for this information).

Despite the couple of flaws (which are not that distracting) with the
presentation, this DVD is worth picking up.