Long Arm of the Law (1984)

Hong Kong Fortune Star re-mastered 2008 DVD


4th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards (1985):

Won - Best Supporting Actor (Shum Wai)
Won - Best Editing (Cheung Yiu-Chung)
Nominated - Best Film
Nominated - Best Director (Johnny Mak Tong-Hung)
Nominated - Best Screenplay (Philip Chan Yan-Kin)
Nominated - Best New Performer (Lin Wei)
Nominated - Best Cinematography (Koo Kwok-Wah)
Nominated - Best Action Choreography (Billy Chan Wui-Ngai)
Nominated - Best Original Score (Lam Mo-Tak)

Long Arm of the Law was ranked #6 on the list of Best 100 Chinese Motion
Pictures during the 24th Hong Kong Film Awards ceremony on 27 March 2005

Directed by Johnny Mak - Produced by Sammo Hung & Johnny Mak
Written by Philip Chan
Cinematography Johnny Koo Kwok Wah

Release date 11 July 1984

Followed by Long Arm of the Law II (1987)

This magnificent crime-action is a rarity among the genre during the The Golden Era of Hong Kong filmmaking. Let's
forget about a master like John Woo, Chow Yun Fat and elegant bullet ballet because this is something totally different.
The Long Arm of the Law has got a more realistic approach to it's subject. A Desperate Crime Action without any
star actors but very well acted and masterful stringently directed by Johnny Mak, and it's very good, ridiculously great.
Today it's considered a Classic and one of the best HK films ever made, but that's in HK, unfortunately Long Arm of
the Law is very, VERY underrated if not completely unknown in the West. But, that is the case for many of the best HK
films and maybe this is The Best Unknown Hong Kong Movie here in the West.

In this deliciously gritty crime movie we get to follow a gang of mainland criminals on their "adventurous" journey from
China to the rich Hong Kong in quest for a suitable place to rob. This was the old times when China still was very
communistic and isolated and passages over the border were troublesome. Well, their adventure ends unhappily in
a cramped space in the old Kowloon Walled City in a truly desperate shoot-out with the police. The old Walled City
that is no more, pulled down in the 1990's. This shoot-out are masterfully shot, it's claustrophobic, cramped and full of
Angst and it's hypnotically fascinating to follow these criminals last moments in life.
The Feel Bad ending one of the most powerful i've ever seen on film, what a great film this is, HK Noir at it's peak.
Director and co-producer Johnny Mak really got everything together with this film, but haven't directed that much later.

The End

Yes, i love Hong Kong crime-action and certainly so the slick great-looking but unrealistic Gun Play of a John Woo or a
Ringo Lam in their Bullet Ballet type of films as A Better Tomorrow, Bullet in the Head or Full Contact.
But Long Arm of the Law was made before John Woo let Chow Yun Fat explode on the screen in Bullet Ballet in 1986
and i, today that is (writing this in 2017), much prefer the classic gritty style of Johnny Mak. It was great to see that a
director like Dante Lam re-animated this dirtier more realistic style of crime-action in his beautiful noirish crime movies
The Beast Stalker in 2008 and Fire of Conscience in 2009, and he obviously were inspired by Johnny Mak's masterpiece.
When i write this in May 2017 i must sadly confess that the Gun Play movies of John Woo or Ringo Lam from the 1980's-
1990's unfortunately feel a bit dated and a film like long Arm of the Law feel more modern with it's gritty realistic style.

Why is that? I guess because of the sensation these Gun Play movies caused in the west among the more adventurous film
fans .... and in Hollywood too. And not just the Shit Factory but every other film industry in the world jumped on the train
and made film after film after .... using the Bullet Ballet style and finally made this type of crime action movies feel generic.
Yes, sure, Long Arm of the Law is known for it's Heroic Bloodshed too and even though there certainly are some Gunplay
in it the film isn't made in the hyper-stylized unrealistic way that John Woo used with his white doves obsession, or Ringo
Lam in his films. Gunplay movies that were popular in HK 1986-1996 and in the rest of the world for another decade.

The first early HK Mega star DVD edition and the 2nd DVD edition from Deltamac

The 1987 sequel directed by Michael Mak featured a mainland
cop trying to infiltrate a Hong Kong crime syndicate and it's far from the quality of the first. Michael Mak is best
known for his classic softcore movie Sex & Zen (with category III legend Amy Yip in her only fully nude role)
and his confusing wuxia Butterfly and Sword with Michelle Yeoh. These Mega Star editions were letterboxed

The Story - with - WARNING!! SPOILERS below


At the start of the film mainland chinese Tung (David Lam) sits on a train on his way from Kowloon Station to
Mainland China. He's a notorious gangster and on his way home to his brothers in The O-Gang. There is text
shown on the screen and in this DVD edition this is not subtitled so what was it about? I don't know, but maybe
his criminal record? The O-Gang consists of 6 members - Tung, Chubby (Wong Kin), Ah Chung (Kong Lun),
Blockhead, Rooster and Bullseye, and they plan to rob a jewellery store in Hong Kong and to return to China
with riches to endure their poor mainland lives (this was 1984 and before the Chinese economic wonder).
Armed and ready they leave on foot for the border, the heavily guarded border by armed guards and dogs.
One member is killed by the guards but 5 of them reach their destination in the paradise of luxury and wealth.

But things start to go wrong, the quick in and out of HK robbery fails when the chosen jewellery store already
have been robbed and they're unwillingly forced to stay in Hong Kong over christmas and the new year. To
do this they need money and they've to loan money from the small-time gangster Tai (well acted by Shum Wai,
awarded the best supporting actor prize at the 1985 Hong Kong Film Awards) but they've to do something
for this favour, a "little" murder. A spectacular murder scene filmed at a skating rink and where the, for the gang,
random victim is shown to be a policeman. The Hong Kong police is furious and soon there's a Dragnet after the
unlucky gang, and which leads to the already above mentioned shoot-out in the Walled City of Kowloon.

One of the most magnificent shoot-outs ever made for sure - Goosebumps - Crime noir at it's best
and .... maybe the most depressing christmas movie ever made

The gang did get their money finally but were caught in a massive police trap, and then escaped to the nearby
Kowloon, into the fascinating Walled City with it's maze of cramped alleys and dead ends. With No Way out
the most claustrophobic and desperate shoot-out ever caught on film ensues, and Long Arm of the Law ends
with maybe the greatest Feel Bad ending ever. Insanely GREAT movie this is and necessary viewing for every
fan of crime-action. Officially ranked as the 6th best Hong Kong film ever made.

Anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 with a cantonese audio DTS, 5.1 or the original 2.0 with english subtitles (or a
mandarin dub 5.1. Extras: original movie trailer, a new edited trailer, stills gallery and a slideshow.
Wow! This one i would like to have in my collection as a blu-ray but will probably be released without subs


Back to Hong Kong Film Classics page