As far as Hong Kong thrillers go this hard-hitting and superb drama from 1997 must rank easily among the best! Director Ringo Lam collaborated on the razor-sharp script with screenwriter Lau Wing-kin and the result is a gripping action flick which is not about a heist gone wrong but about ensuring that a planned heist will go wrong.

Hong Kong Inspector Pao (Lau Ching Wan) is a workaholic and – just like a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – never gives up until he catches his man. This stubbornness also goes for his efforts in tracking down and catching Mak Kwan (Francis Ng), a master criminal and expert when it comes to making bombs. So far Inspector Pao has been unsuccessful in catching Mak but when the hard-boiled criminal makes a big mistake during a bungled robbery by killing the owner of the apartment (in fact he is an associate of sorts) Mak’s fingerprints are not only all over the apartment but also on the victims’ corpse, who is discovered in a water tank on the rooftop. Although initial attempts to arrest him almost cost Pao and his team their lives after they enter a place which has been rigged with explosives, the law wins the upper hand a short time later when Mak and his girlfriend Chung (Amanda Lee) are arrested and brought to the police station for questioning. Although Mak admits he was part of the bungled robbery he will not go as far as to admit to murder, instead, he tries to get away with a manslaughter charge. Seeing how Chung was not part of the robbery the police have no other option than to let her go under the condition she blows the whistle and reveals details about some possible associates of Mak as they are sure the gang plan an elaborate heist sometime soon. Sure enough Chung drops a few hints but no sooner is she free then she walks to a phone booth (still in wide use back in 1997!) and warns the gang and their boss Zang (Jack Kao) who are in fact illegal ‘immigrants’ from Taiwan. Worried that Mak might reveal plans concerning a planned heist, Zang and three of his henchmen including Chan Wah (Raymond Cho) put a brazen escape plan into action though things go pear-shaped when a street patrol spots the four men in their car – prompting a breath-taking car chase on the streets of Hong Kong as Inspector Pao and his team try to tail the criminals’ car but they only succeed in one of their team members getting killed when his car overturns… after a brief shootout one of Zang’s accomplices is fatally wounded although the criminals manage to escape. During a burial ceremony in the woods Zang is so enraged over the death of his friend that he brutally kills another accomplice with a shovel.

Meanwhile, Pao’s efforts return to square one and it takes its toll on his family life – family being wife Yee (Monica Chan) and a little toddler. To make matters worse, in an even more brazen attempt Mak manages to escape from prison via helicopter (I kid you not!) and while it looks as if he’s heading towards mainland China (at least this is what Pao and his team are supposed to think) the truth is somewhat different because Mak joins Zak and his remaining gang, initially shocked to hear that Chan Wah was killed during the police chase but unaware that it was in fact Zang who had killed him. Knowing full well that by now Mak has, in all likelihood, joined forces with Zang, an increasingly erratic and moody Inspector Pao makes it his personal mission to foil any attempted robbery but of course, he doesn’t even know where and when this elaborate robbery (involving a bomb of course) will take place. When his family gets drawn into the almighty mess there’s no stopping Pao but he hasn’t counted on the fact that Mak always appears to be one step ahead and that he has a loyal girlfriend who will stand by him no matter what – even if it means murder. The climax is as explosive and uncompromising as it gets!

Lau Ching-wan delivers a compelling performance as a police inspector whose sense of duty eventually wrecks havoc with his mind and his health – he is not a tough-as-nails superhero but a human being whose tough façade – after years in service - gradually begins to crack and who confesses to his wife that he’s just not cut out for the job anymore. At the other end of the spectrum we have Francis Ng as the tough-as-nails criminal Mak although his downfall is his love for his girlfriend.
This is not set in a glossy high-tech Hong Kong but it is a Hong Kong that looks suitably gritty. Interesting perhaps is the fact that the movie was made in 1997 (and is set in 1997) because it marked a year when Chinese control extended its claws over everything including the arts and the film sector.

Eureka has released FULL ALERT on Blu-ray and the first print run (2000 copies) will be presented in a Limited Edition O-card slipcase with Collector’s booklet. Bonus material includes audio commentaries and trailer. Cantonese with English subtitles.