Ringo Lam, Hong Kong Director of ‘City on Fire,’ Dies at 63 | Modern Society of USA

Ringo Lam, Hong Kong Director of ‘City on Fire,’ Dies at 63

Ringo Lam, Hong Kong Director of ‘City on Fire,’ Dies at 63

HONG KONG — Ringo Lam, a Hong Kong film director best known for gritty crime thrillers like the 1987 classic “City on Fire,” died on Saturday at his home in Hong Kong. He was 63.

The police confirmed Mr. Lam’s death. The cause was unknown but the police said they found no reason to suspect foul play. Local news media said Mr. Lam had recently come down with a cold and that his wife had found him unresponsive in his bed.

Following the unexpected success of his fourth feature film, the action-comedy “Aces Go Places IV,” in 1986, Mr. Lam was offered a rare opportunity: a chance to write and shoot any film he wanted to make so long as the budget was under 4 million Hong Kong dollars, the equivalent of about $1.1 million today.

“I was puzzled, and at first I didn’t know what to film,” said Mr. Lam in a 2015 interview. “Eventually I decided that I enjoyed the realistic aspects of ‘The French Connection’” — the 1971 American production directed by William Friedkin — “and that I wanted to create a film containing similar grit.”

The result was the 1987 film “City on Fire,” starring Chow Yun-fat as an undercover police officer who penetrates a gang of thieves, becomes chummy with one of the robbers (played by Danny Lee) and gets caught up when a planned heist of a jewelry store goes wrong.

The film, which plays heavily on the themes of brotherhood and honor among thieves, became an instant hit, earning Mr. Lam the title of best director at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 1988. Today, it is widely regarded as a pillar of Hong Kong’s well-known gangster film genre, along with other classics like John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow” (1986) and Johnnie To’s “The Mission” (1999).

Riding on the success of “City on Fire,” Mr. Lam quickly churned out two more films in the “Fire” series, “Prison on Fire” (1987) and “School on Fire” (1988).

“His tales of weary policemen and jumpy criminals have a depth, and a romanticism, that come from characterization and attention to quotidian detail rather than sheer visual polish,” Mike Hale, a critic for The New York Times, wrote in 2015.

“City on Fire” was famously a major source of inspiration for Quentin Tarantino, whose cult feature “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) so closely resembled Mr. Lam’s movie in certain plot points and staging elements that it raised questions about plagiarism.

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