Island On Fire Cover Did you know that the word 'prisoner' is Greek in origin, and actually means 'Can I have a some egg noodles now please, or else I may have to kill you'? Huh? What do you mean I'm talking a load of old Wok? If you don't believe me, just ask the Director: Chu Yin-Ping; or the Actors: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Andy Lau, and Tony Leung. But please remember, only ask then this in 1991, and for about 96 minutes.

Island on Fire (AKA The Prisoner)

Now if you was a convicted criminal residing in prison, who would you want to be out of the following three felons?

Would it be Fatty (Sammo Hung)? A lifetime inmate who keeps on breaking in and out of jail time after time, just so he is able to see his young son. Or would it be Steve (Jackie Chan)? A hard-done by pool-hall hustler, who gets arrested for accidentally killing the brother of Boss Lee (Andy Lau), whilst trying to earn some money to save his girlfriend's life. Or what about someone like Andy (Tony Leung) then? An undercover cop who deliberately gets himself put inside, so that he can then investigate what escaped convict murdered his close friend, the professor.

Huh? What's that you say? You'd choose, Andy? Oh dear. What a bad choice. Not only does Lucas, the prisons top-dog, use Andy as a punching bag because he keeps on trying to figure out some of Boss Lee's dubious activities. But even when Steve tries to help him out here and there, well, things don't always seem to go his way either.

If I was you, I would have chosen Fatty instead. You see, unlike the other two prisoners, he seems to have a much better time of it overall. Placing bet's and swapping stories like a thief ready to run free.

Still, I suppose that's why what next transpires is not as simple as walking through a cell door. As deaths leads to redemption - revenge has no exemption - winners and losers drop their jaw - and always remember, please abide by the law.

A beginning. 

Now if it's OK by you, I would like you to do a couple of things for me before I commence my review on 'The Prisoner'. Firstly, I would like you to sit back and relax (Deep breaths. In-out. In-out). Next, I want you to clear your mind of all that stuff and nonsense roaming around inside your brain (try to envisage a piece of glass floating around the deep blue sea). And finally, I would like you to conjure up in your mind a slice of Hong Kong cinema from the past.

Island On Fire With Jackie Chan
There. You got it? Good. What do you see? Do you see an ancient battle set within a frugal province? Like 'Drunken Master' for example. Or do you see one of those close combat action movies of the more urbane variety? Like 'Police Story'.

Well, whatever it is you saw, let me state for the record that there's another category of Hong Kong cinema for you to add to your mental-landscape.

Yeah. Straight up. To start off with, let's just say that this genre is very eighties inspired, and involves a multi-faceted plot-line, with the emphasis more on plot than on action. Furthermore, that it's f*cking amazing to watch too; as well as... err... being... this film. It's 'The Prisoner'.

You see, for yours truly, this action adventure was a right blast from the very beginning to the very end. With a cast and a story that's so memorable, I can't seem to any fault with it whatsoever. However, the one thing you have to remember whilst watching it, is that it isn't a ‘Jackie Chan’ film, a ‘Sammo Hung’ film, or a‘Andy Lau’ film. It’s a Hong Kong prison adventure set in the same vein as 'the Great Escape', full of a girth, grit, and personality, that really took me by surprise bar none.

In a good way of course.

Island On Fire

Island On Fire Cover
Honestly. After watching the U.S. version of this film, I would now like to see the longer Taiwanese version next. It’s that’s good! Unlike some of the other Hong Kong action films of this era, there is an actual tale to tell, and it is not just your usual ‘you killed my bluva’ revenge flick (even though Jackie did kill Andy’s brother in this film).

Please understand, that is not to say that there isn't any action in 'The Prisoner' whatsoever. Because there is. Quite a bit actually. Yet this involves people being stabbed in the gut and then pushed off of high rise gantries, rather than your trademark high flying wire-work antics, as well as people falling onto well placed glass tables.

Oh! Theres quite a bit of gun-play too! In fact, I think that this is the first film I have watched were Jackie uses a gun more than his fists!

Anyway, that's enough of my idol praising for the moment. I think that this is a very good time for some filmic-facts. (1) 'Golden Harvest' first released this production in Taiwan, on the same date President George Bush awarded Jesse Owens the Congressional Gold Medal -- the 28th of March, 1990. (2) Whereas this film is called 'Island of Fire', in England, France, and Spain, plus 'Jackie Chan is the Prisoner', in America, the rest of Europe just calls it, 'The Prisoner'. (3) Even though you couldn't really tell, the majority of this movie was shot throughout Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Taiwan. (4) Domonic Muir, who transcribed this project into English, has also worked on Jet Li's 1994 action-comedy, 'Legend of The Red Dragon', plus the 1986 horror-comedy, 'Critters'. (5) One the reasons Jackie Chan agreed to star in this flick, was because he was indebted to one of it's producers, Jimmy Wang Yu, for helping him out with a problem he had with Bruce Lee's one time director, Lo Wei. (6) In total there were three different theatrical versions of this film eventually released. The Hong Kong version was 93-minute long. The English language version was 96-minutes long. And the Taiwanese version, which focuses more on character and plot development, was 125-minute long. (7) The actor who plays Inspector Wong in this crime-thriller, Barry Wong, wrote the screenplay for 'Heart of the Dragon' starring Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. (8) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'Like a Knife in the Throat' in Finland, 'Mission on Fire Island' in Portugal, and just 'Fire Island' in Hungary.

Jackie and Sammo in Island On Fire

Hey! Do you know what, dear reader'? Another thing that springs to mind about 'The Prisoner', is how this movie ends. It's a funny thing really -- this ending -- because in a strange way it fits the plot perfectly. Because in conception, it's both daring, striking, and dynamic at the same time.

Now I hope that if any filmmaker wants to attempt to remake this film in the future -- hint-hint, Scorsese -- then I'm pretty sure that in so doing, they won't lose the earthy and bold essence behind this story. You know. Something like this...

Say no more.


THE PRISONER - ISLAND OF FIRE THE PRISONER - ISLAND OF FIRE Reviewed by David Andrews on August 29, 2013 Rating: 5
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