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.
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.
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.
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!
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 RATING: A