ٴXL (1984)
Long Arm of the Law

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 07/24/2006
Summary: Gritty!!

I have to agree with the rest of the reviewers, this is a movie worth watching. A straight forward look at determined criminals who have nothing to lose and though it does feel and look dated, this shouldnt be a deterent.

The sequel has little to do from it, but i did see Ben Lam as a officer in this movie then a bad guy in the sequel. The sequel does have the head police investigator in it but it is another tale.

The other reviewers have said enough, a strong cops and robbers movie with a brutal ending

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 03/08/2006
Summary: well worth it...

i thought i'd investigate this, after i saw it listed in the 100 best chinese films list, and i'm glad i did.

tung, who lives in hong kong, travel back to the mainland to plot a robbery with some old army friends. they arrive in hong kong, but their plans soom go awry and they get involved in a hit.

good solid stuff, more gritty and less stylised than your woo / lam pics of a similar ilk, but plenty of gunfire, including a full-on climactic street battle.

the dvd is cheap and cheerful, don't be put off by the terrible quality of the print at the start of the film; it gets better. or i got used to it...

Reviewed by: Frank Lakatos
Date: 02/11/2006
Summary: This is one of the best and most realistic triad movies..

This is one of the best and most realistic, besides Philip Chan's other experience based script Jumping Ash(1976), triad movies that accurately depicts the ways of the triad world. Lam Wai is captivating, the action brutal, the acting, the honor, and guts, all intenely effective. Phillip Chan is one of HK best triad and cop movies writers, underrated by jealousy in the industry. Thanks to his experiences as a cop in the Royal HK police, his scripts are factually and effectively the best triad movies ever made. The scene where the police chief looks at a dead cop, and then takes the AK-47 from one of his men and pursuies lam and his gang through the apartment complex, the music in that scene, is incredibly chilling. Shum Wei' beating by the hands of Lam Wai, when they discover Shum's wire tap is effectively choreographed, and the honorable standoff betwene the gang in the basement doctor is effective as well. The music scores are incredibly effective, as Phillip Chan used it again in his chilling and stylish Night Caller(1985). Highly recommended. 5/5

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 12/08/2005

Johnny Mak's Long Arm of the Law is widely regarded as one of the first "heroic bloodshed" movies -- the genre of cops-and-robbers action/dramas that was popularized with John Woo's A Better Tomorrow and would become the Hong Kong film industry's bread and butter for the better part of the next two decades. Even though Long Arm of the Law had no big stars to sell tickets, the gritty look at the underbelly of Hong Kong was a hit with local audiences -- going on to inspire several unrelated sequels -- and it swept most of the major categories of the 1985 Hong Kong Film Awards. The film has recently been re-issued on DVD, allowing a new group of viewers to experience what can be considered one of the most influential entries of modern Hong Kong cinema.

In the film, David Lam plays Tung, the leader of a rag-tag "gang" of former Mainland soldiers who are tried of working for fifty dollars a month, and so hatch a plan to sneak into Hong Kong, rob a jewelry store and then return to the Mainland to live off their spoils. The plan goes awry almost immeadiately when one of the gang is killed by the border patrol, and things are screwed up even further when they go to commit the robbery, only to find that someone has already tried to rob the store and botched the job. Desperate for money, the gang agrees to pull off a hit of what they think is a low-level Triad. But the target actually turns out to be a cop, and they quickly become Hong Kong's most wanted criminals. Backed up against the wall, the gang must try to keep both the Triads and the police off their trail as they once again attempt to rob the store.

Upon viewing Long Arm of the Law, it's easy to see the impact it had on the Hong Kong gangster movie. Of course, there are the overt gags such as people wielding dual handguns and Mexican standoffs that would come to be some of the most used visuals in HK Triad pictures. But, more importantly, it's how Long Arm of the Law treats the characters that would set the bar of how things were handled in the genre from now on. Unlike most of the previous entries in the genre, there are no "good" or "bad" characters. On both sides of the law, the characters operate in a gray area where brotherhood and loyalty -- not things such as laws or money -- dictates the characters' actions. Both the gang and police do despicable acts at times; for example, one of the gang forces a club hostess to orally satisfy him at gunpoint, while the police show little regard for innocent bystanders in their pursuit of the gang. But there are several small scenes (again, from both sides of the legal coin) that show the characters are capable of compassion, and this makes them, and the story as a whole, that much more relevant to the viewer.

Action-wise, Long Arm of the Law also changed how things were handled in mainstream Hong Kong productions. With Billy Chan's action direction, Johnny Koo's camerawork and Peter Cheung's editing (all of which won Hong Kong Film Awards), it's gritty, violent, and exciting. The last twenty minutes centers around a frentic shootout in the back alleys of Mongkok, and it still stands up well today. Even though there might not be enough action to satisfy die-hard gunfight fans (the first half-hour or so of the movie is frankly pretty slow) what is there gives enough oomph to the proceedings to make thinks all that more electric. By the time Long Arm of the Law ends, the viewer will feel -- much like the characters in the film itself -- both physically and mentally drained, and that, in this reviewer's mind, is one of the things that seperates a great film from a good one.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 04/06/2003
Summary: Excellent


Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/23/2002
Summary: OK for its time, but not all that

I'm sure this was really a very good attempt in 1984. Now it just seems dated on all fronts. Don't believe the comparisons to A Better Tomorrow, the 2 films are leagues apart.

Reviewed by: smalltree
Date: 01/07/2001
Summary: One of the best Hong Kong action movies I have ever seen.

One of the best Hong Kong action movies I have ever seen. This movie is very grim and very violent.

A gang of Mainland Chinese plan to get rich quick by crossing into Hong Kong to do a big jewellery hist. Unfortunately things do not go according to plan and slowly spins out of control.

The action scenes are done very well. Two of my favourite scenes include the killing of the policemen, which results in his body sliding across the crowded ice rink. The second is the shootout with the police in the maze of the Kowloon City slum.

This is very 80's film not only in terms of fashion and how the film looks but how it depicts Mainland Chinese. More than ten years before the 1997 hand over, there is distinct them and us attitude. All the Mainland characters in this film are either criminals or prostitutes.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 10/27/2000
Summary: Dated, but still important and gripping.

The Hong Kong of 1984 appears to have been an incredibly cheesy time and place to have lived in. Pink sweatsuits on men, hideous stock soundtracks, bullets removed from wounds undeformed and unspent, surveilance cameras producing grainy-looking copies of the actual movie, and security monitors being shot out instead of cameras or tape decks. Despite the heavily dated and cheesy aspects of Long Arm of the Law, it is an exciting and revealing look at Mainlanders who seek their fortunes illegally in Hong Kong. The characters and their motivations are developed well enough to make them involving, but Johnny Mak never lets us forget that they're dangerous, brutal, unrepentant criminals. The use of amateur actors adds to the realism, giving us average, not-necessarily-attractive characters instead of brooding, pretty-boy anti-heroes. Despite a middle section that could stand to be tightened up by a few minutes, the last half-hour really cements the movie's reputation; the finale is particularly good, making absolutely brilliant use of confined spaces to create a sense of terror and desperation. Some of the long takes of Lam Wai desperately running through tunnel-like alleyways looking for a way out are heart-stopping. For all its '80s kitsch, Long Arm of the Law is a film well-deserving or its reputation.

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 08/07/2000
Summary: A blast !

Five mainland thugs, led by Lam Wai, plan a day trip to HK for a jewellery shop robbery, which goes horribly wrong. While basically animals loyal only to each other, they occasionally show a little humanity.
This film is simply stunning, although the first half-hour is rather slow. The later City On Fire was clearly inspired by this one, and it seems likely that John Woo used this film as a blueprint for movies such as The Killer.
If anything, Woo's gunfire ballads look pretty tame compared with Long Arm's straightforward documentary feel and brutal honesty.
Clearly a big success, this film spawned at least three sequels I could trace.
Ultimately very grim, but highly recommended.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

One of those rare jewels in cinema that is both enormouslyentertaining and artisticly original and exciting, like some of Hitchcock's great works. The story is about a gang of former red gaurds led by Ah Tung sneak into Hongkong from China, trying to rob a jewel shop, make a quick buck, then fleeing back to China. The plan goes terribly wrong from the begining because of an unexpected incident. The gang is held up in Hongkong trying to figure out what to do next. During which they are unwittingly trapped into killing a plainclothed cop, thus trigguring a police man hunt for them.... I don't want to spoil the fun of watching the facinating plots being unfolded, just find it out and prepare to be dazzled by one of the all time greatest action movies. Anyone who want to see Jet Li or Jacky Chan type of Kung Fu fights might be disappointed though because it's not the usual romanticizing violence. It is real violence in its rawest form. It is about advanture, survival, lost love, betrayal...(now I sound like a movie publicity guy :))) Few things in this movie: the director Mak Dong-Hung (in my humble opinion much better and more original than John Woo) uses only amature actors, like all amature actors (example: those in Pasollini's films) their actings are more unpretentious, real, unpolished and powerful, it also shows the artistic courage and confidence of the director. It is not a moralist tale like most movies from Hongkong or for that matter from Hollywood are. There is no good guys or bad guys. Characters are victims of the circumstances. The former red guards are driven by greeds and desperations for survival. Cops are corrupt and brutal and trying to catch the thiefs with any cost. The finale is one of the most violent, spare-no- hostage type of shoot-out I've ever seen in movies. Compared to Mak, Tarantino seems tame and timid, John Woo a sissy and Ringo Lam really lame. One thing though, one of the biggest draws in this movie, for me, is its language. I've lived in Guangzhou and Hongkong both long enough to appriciate the witty use of slangs and local dialect. The subtitle in our tape is pretty inadequate. Still, despite of it, rent it and enjoy!"

[Reviewed by Anonymous]