Full Alert

It was clumsy, it was rushed, and it had consequences for disgraced former engineer and demolition expert Mak Kwan, the killing of the architect which he later claimed to the police was an act of self-defence, leaving the body in the rooftop tank, infecting the water supply to the building and so leading to the discovery – but why, when he supposedly went to collect a gambling debt, did he take the blueprints of an unidentified vault?

The investigation led by Officer Pau of Hong Kong’s Serious Crime Bureau, Kwan refuses to divulge any further information but his cousin Chan Wah is also known to the authorities and suspected of involvement in a larger scheme, as is his girlfriend Chung Lai-hung whom they try to tail but lose. Kwan’s transfer to the courthouse imminent, it will be the opportunity his associates need to either arrange his escape or ensure his silence is permanent.

Hong Kong on full alert, booby trap bombs explode above the city streets, showering debris on the streets below and the pursuit of suspects leads to wrecked cars and shoot-outs with victims on either side and the collateral damage of passers-by, Officer Pau (Sean Lau Ching-wan) losing patience and frequently his temper as his wife and son are targeted to put pressure on him.

Directed by Wild Search‘s Ringo Lam from a script co-written with Lau Wing-kin, Full Alert (高度戒備) was originally released in 1997 and is now available on Blu-ray in the UK for the first time as part of Eureka’s Classics range, but despite the new transfer from the original film elements it feels a decade older, the picture soft and grainy, the explosions, car chases and synthesiser soundtrack making it feel more akin to an overlooked eighties action movie.

The Serious Crime Bureau poorly run and Pau’s relations with his colleagues bordering on hostile, blaming them for failures when he has set the strategy, they are hampered by the hierarchies of those they try to protect, requests for information and access having to be referred up through layers of bureaucracy, making it all the stranger that Kwan (Francis Ng) is somehow able to obtain Pau’s telephone number and home address, information presumably not widely disseminated.

Echoing other Hong Kong cinema of the era – back-alley chases with weapons dropped, the overzealous interrogation of suspects, the generally unprofessional approach of all the police branches, Kwan’s eventual escape from prison ludicrously facilitated by a conveniently available helicopter with the grounds – the new edition of Full Alert also carries two commentaries, one from Lam, and an interview with composer Peter Kam.

Full Alert will be available on Blu-ray from Monday 22nd November from Eureka



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