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Film / City War

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City War is a 1988 Hong Kong crime drama and Buddy Cop film starring Chow Yun-fat and Ti Lung. Released a year after the second A Better Tomorrow film, the two actors had somewhat of a role reversal this time, where Ti Lung is the hot-tempered, loose cannon cop, while Chow is his calm, level-headed partner.

Ken (Ti Lung) and Dick (Chow Yun Fat) are police detectives and partners whom have worked as a team for over a decade. Despite their differences in personalities where Ken is the trigger-happy hothead and Dick being the patient one, they remain close friends where Dick is regularly invited to Ken's home and dine with his family. Dick, still a bachelor, also had a crush on local nightclub singer Penny, which ends up being problematic because Penny's current boyfriend is none other than Ted (Norman Chu, former Shaw Brothers veteran actor), a drug dealer and weapons smuggler which Ken and Dick arrested and put in prison a decade ago. With Ted released from prison and now working for a mainland Chinese gunrunning triad, both Ken and Dick are now marked for death.

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This film contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: Close enough, the final shootout takes place in an abandoned bus depot.
  • Accidental Murder: Ted in the final shootout, trying to fire on Dick, only for Penny to step in the way and gets riddled with bullets meant for Dick.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Dick, in the end of the movie, having been shot multiple times by Ted's goons. The epilogue reveals that he survived however, despite seemingly succumbing to his injuries as the credits roll.
  • An Ax To Grind: In the climax, Ted attempts to kill Ken with a fire ax. He failed, only to have Ken snatch the weapon from him, and later Ken uses the same weapon to crack the Russian gun dealer's skull.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The climax had Dick being cornered by mooks in the bottom of a bus, with mooks firing their guns at him from all directions. It seems like Dick is done for, but then Ken arrives with a shotgun and starts blasting away the remaining mooks left and right.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Ted and his gang are dead, but Dick is badly injured from multiple gunshot wounds. And while the end credits states that both Ken and Dick survived, it also states that both men will serve life imprisonment for the various murders they've committed.
  • Cowboy Cop: Ken is a loose cannon whose Establishing Character Moment is him pulling his gun on a shoplifter in the opening scene. His partner, Dick arrives a few seconds later, and had to actually plead for Ken to calm the hell down.
  • Contemptible Cover: The above poster shows a skimpily-dressed bargirl that doesn't appear in the movie itself.
  • Cool Guns: For the final shootout, the Russian gun dealer working for Ted is shown using a Thompson Machine-gun. Ken gets to use this weapon after offing the dealer.
  • Dual Wield: Dick in the final shootout gets to use two pistols at the same time. Since he's played by Chow Yun-fat, who did the same thing earlier in A Better Tomorrow, that's a rather deliberate Actor Allusion.
  • Falsely Reformed Villain: Ted, the Big Bad who Just Got Out of Jail after Ken and Dick put him in it a decade ago. And is now out for revenge, not to mention in cahoots with a gun-running syndicate attempting to smuggle weapons into Hong Kong.
  • Family Man: For all his worth being a hot-tempered loose cannon, Ken is still a devoted family man to his wife and children. Too bad all that ultimately leads to Family Extermination.
  • Fire and Ice Love Triangle: The subplot revolves around Dick’s relationship with Penny, a singer and bar girl who is also romantically involved with Ted the Big Bad.
  • Forklift Fu: In the climax, Ken drives a forklift into a group of thugs while firing his shotgun, taking out various enemies while using the vehicle as cover.
  • Heroic BSoD: Dick becomes completely stunned from shock after Penny died taking the bullets meant for him in the final shootout. Which allows a second group of thugs to arrive and fire at him with bullets, nearly killing Dick in the process if Ken hadn’t arrived on time.
  • Improvised Weapon: In the climax, Ted ran out of bullets, and decides to attack Ken with a fire hose turned at full blast.
  • Kind Restraints: Prior to the climax, Dick purposely handcuffs Ken to a table to prevent Ken from going on a potentially suicidal mission to take down the Big Bad.
  • King Mook: One of Ted's mooks, a regular-looking random thug named Bobby, who actually survives the initial shootout with Dick, escapes when Ken guns down the remaining thugs, and even gets to fight Ken one-on-one and give Ken quite some trouble. He is the second-to-last baddie to die, and is finally taken down after Ken smashed his noggin' against a sharp corner.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The two henchmen sent to off Ken, only succeeding in killing his family. The story becomes a lot Darker and Edgier after they showed up.
  • Machete Mayhem: The two killers sent after Ken, who at first tries firing up his house with AK-47s, but once they run out of bullets they whip out machetes instead.
  • Mood Whiplash: The movie is rather light-hearted with some rather comedic moments, with funny antics between Ken and Dick, Dick trying his best to convince Ken not to literally draw his gun at the slightest provocation, and then Dick trying to woo Penny, a singer he had a crush on. Even when Ted got out of prison, he's hamming up every scene he's in and barely feels like a threat... and then, two henchmen working for Ted attacks Ken and Dick while Ken is having dinner with his family, killing off Ken's wife and daughter and leaving Ken's son hospitalized in critical condition. And it goes worse from there...
  • Revenge Before Reason: Ken goes completely berserk after Ted’s henchmen killed his wife and daughter, and left his son in a critical condition, to the point where he’s willing to embark on a Suicide Mission taking on Ted and his gang, alone, if Dick hadn’t restrained him on time.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The final shootout where Ken and Dick take on the army of gunrunners. Ken for his deceased wife and daughter, and Dick for Penny.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Ken uses a shotgun in the finale, killing several mooks, and in fact uses that same weapon to avenge his family by blasting Ted full of lead.
  • Shout-Out
    • A scene in the police locker room had an officer mentioning the Rambo movies.
    "The police are helpless. We only had revolvers, with six bullets. The criminals have Rambo guns with hundreds of bullets. We have nothing..."
    • In the final shootout, Dick uses a rolling tractor wheel as tall as himself as an improvised shield, similar to the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where Indy uses a rolling gong for the same purpose.


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