I'm not quite certain exactly when I became acquainted with the name Ringo Lam, it was obviously after I explored all the visceral works of John Woo and was looking for newvistas, new horizons . Quentin Tarantino had released the astounding RESERVOIR DOGS (still his best movie), and people started comparing it to this Hong Kong Flick called CITY ON FIRE.
I still haven't seen CITY ON FIRE, so I can't speak on any similarities between Tarantino's work and Lam's. For all my looking for new horizon's to explore, none of RINGO LAM's movies interested me enough to buy (of course my local rental store didn't carry them) and the reviews while good, with one exception, weren't great.
So Ringo Lam remained the untried commodity until his U.S. debut with Jean Claude Van Damme's MAXIMUM IMPACT. This is a movie that was ignored at the box office, by everyone, including me, and completely mauled by the critics. The movie quickly made its slide to video. Where I on an exceptionally slow night decied to give it a try. What I found was a movie that utterly floored me, that was creative, exciting, fluid, and was easily Jean Claude's best movie ever. The fight scenes were tight and gripping and brutal, particularly the fight on the elavator, reminiscent of one of the best screen fights, Sean Connery in FROM RUSSIA TO LOVE with his grueling close quarters fight on the train.
The car chases, the gun battles, the characterization, everything worked. There's a scene where Jean Claude's character snaps and is about to beat a man to death. About to enter Steven Segal levels of brutality, when he looks at himself in the mirror, and isn't quite sure what he's become. A great scene, that reads like a subtle parody and indictment of the Steve Segal vengeance themed movies.
Whatever the true meaning, the movie works surprisingly well. And I find myself watching it often. There was reportedly tension on the set and powerstruggles but whatever the backscene havock, it made for onscreen magic. Highly Recommended!! ***1/2.