The Big Heat
Reviewed by Glenn Satele
Stars: Waise Lee, Chu Kong, Phillip Kwok,
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 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).
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.
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
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
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
Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is not obtrusive or
Removable subtitles with choices of Traditional
Chinese, Simplified Chinese,
English or Nil.
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.