Ringo Lam returns to Hong Kong after the tepid Maximum
Risk with this top-notch cops ‘n robbers thriller. Lau
Ching-Wan is Officer Pao, a stressed cop who investigates
a routine murder. The culprit is a loser named Mak Kwan (Francis
Ng), who admits to manslaughter, but not the more serious
crimes that he’s planning with a mainland criminal (Jack Gao).
Problem is, Lau and his crew (Chin Kar-Lok, Emily Kwan, and
Peter Yung) are on to Mak Kwan thanks to the handy bomb-making
materials discovered during the investigation. This leads
to an elaborate stakeout as the cops try to discover just
exactly what Mak Kwan is up to.
The action in this film is fairly
routine, but Lam’s direction is terrific. Each moment in this
film leads to the next with expert precision. As the film
unfolds, we gradually discover the motivations and fears that
drive our protagonists, and the line between cop and criminal
blurs even more. This is a well-realized treatment of the
cop/criminal film, with excellent performances all around.
Francis Ng, especially, shines as the almost sympathetic bad
guy who’s all-too-human in his weaknesses and strengths. As
is usual with a Ringo Lam film, the resolution leaves us little
to be happy about, but the results are compelling. Full
Alert is rife with shades of gray, and the complexity
of action and character are fascinating. (Kozo 1997)