Neon lights, smooth jazz and lounge bars are one of the seductive backgrounds of the story that is occasionally too messy to be fully enjoyed. Too much running and chasing mashed together with romantic love story - because of that, the focus on heist and its antagonists is lost. The great ending is just a reminder of everything that has not been explored as it should have been.
I never thought a Ringo Lam film as highly regarded as this and that's the #1 influence on Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs would be so bland. The action scenes are amusing-- but don't come close to out wooing Woo-- yet that's maybe only 25 minutes worth of interest, as all the scenes connecting it are as melodramatic and rote as can be. I am not a big Tarantino fan, but he bettered this by far, and Lam did later, as well.
Shades of Reservoir Dogs as undercover cop Chow Yun Fat attempts to infiltrate a local gang of thieves before they plan their next big score. Despite being well-acted, City on Fire squanders a lot of time on an unnecessary love interest instead of developing Fat's budding relationship with the antagonists. It's because of this that the final moments aren't as emotionally impactful as they could and should have been.
As a stand alone film, City on Fire is a kick ass Hong Kong undercover cop thriller. I watched this because of it's influence on Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. The influences are most certainly there. Worth checking out for Tarantino fanatics plus some pretty awesome stunt work from Yung-Fat.
Ever wonder what else happened in Reservoir Dogs offscreen? This is the dry run that actually has a story behind it. And characters instead of flashy characterizations. Enjoyable HK action film that has a lot more going on than the opening would have you believe. Chow Yun-fat shines. It's really odd to see the main relationship of "The Killer" reversed though.