My family was bored this weekend so my mom went to the local Chinese video store and rented Ringo Lam’s Prison on Fire. My mom picked the film based on the star name attached to it, Chow-Yun Fat. We expected a shoot ‘em up film but we were pleasantly surprised with the drama that we got.
Tony Leung is an ordinary man who works with his father. He has everything that an ordinary guy could ask for; a good family, a good job, and a girlfriend ready to marry him. That is until one night when he involuntarily kills a robber. He is sentenced to prison for two years.
In prison he befriends a fellow inmate (Chow-Yun Fat) who knows his way around people and the prison system. Leung’s character is an up front and honest guy, and this gets him in trouble with the head on one of the prison’s gangs. The warden of the prison is a gang-hater and gives no help to Leung’s character, and later on the warden is also insulted by Leung in front of his superiors he puts Leung in further danger.
Prison on Fire follows Leung’s character through his hardships during his prison term. It shows a man that is forced to learn and accept change. The main theme of the film is loyalty. The loyalty shared between Leung’s character and Fat’s character. They suffer much throughout the movie, mostly because of Leung’s characters mouth.
Prison on Fire is a well-made drama by director Ringo Lam who made his US directorial debut with the forgettable Maximum Risk (with Van Damme). There are some slow portions of the film, but for the most part Lam keeps a good pace. The film is in Cantonese with English subtitles. But the transfer is not that great and sometimes the subtitles are off the bottom of the screen (I understand enough Cantonese and that was not a big problem, but for English speakers, beware). I recommend this film; it is a good piece of drama.