Set in Hong Kong, in 1941, the story revolves around the forbidden love story between Wong Hak-keung (Alex Man) and Yuk-Nam (Yip), due to the differences in their societal status, and that Hong Kong is near the outbreak of war, with the Japanese forces ready to invade anytime. Additionally Hak-keung had to contend with Yip Kim-fay (Chow), a close friend who also has feelings for Yuk-Nam, who is a supporter of the local Japanese forces posted in Hong Kong.
Chow Yun-fat notably won the 22nd Golden Horse Awards for Best Actor for his performance in this film, which allows him to be spotted by John Woo for his next big breakthrough, A Better Tomorrow. After this film, Chow and Man will later co-star in the Rich and Famous / Tragic Hero duology, where they would ironically play enemies instead.
This film contains examples of:
- Advertised Extra: Once again, DVD re-releases of an older movie◊ starring Chow Yun-fat tried to hype up Chow's presence in the film after Chow's popularity surpassed his co-stars, when in the film itself Chow is mostly a Deuteragonist.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: An unnamed prisoner, and later Hak-keung, gets tortured by Chairman Liu, by having the bottom of a stick of firecrackers shoved into one of their ears, and then the tip of the crackers lit blasting and completely rupturing their eardrums apart.
- Fake Defector: Kim-fay pretends to be joining Chairman Liu into supporting the Japanese, in exchange for a position of power when the Japanese forces inevitably takes over Hong Kong. It turns out he's actually faking it, when Kim-fay stealthily assassinates Chairman Liu, saves Hak-keung from a painful torture, and quickly made plans to help Hak-keung and Nam flee the city.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Hak-keung, Kim-fay, and Nam eventually holds each other close to their hearts when they kill off the local Japanese General, Kanezawa together in a lengthy fight, with Nam stabbing Kanezawa in the throat with a hook and Kim-fay snatching Kanezawa's katana from him and killing the General personally.
- Framing Device: The movie begins with an older Nam narrating her personal story of the Japanese takeover of Hong Kong in 1941, four decades ago, and what happened between her and her Fire-Forged Friends which allows their escape from Hong Kong before outbreak of war possible.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Kim-fay at the end of the movie blows up himself and a patrol-boat full of Japanese soldiers to allow Hak-keung, Nam, and the rest of the refugees fleeing Hong Kong to escape.
- Heroic Suicide: See above.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: General Kanezawa tries attacking Kim-fay and friends with a katana, only to have Kim-fay using that katana and shoving it through Kanezawa's own midsection.
- Hope Spot: The small boat containing Kim-fay, Hak-keung, Nam and dozens and dozens of refugees fleeing Hong Kong has made it to the middle of the South China Sea, and about to reach the nearest harbour in Thailand. But they are not entirely out of the woods yet, when suddenly a patrol-boat full of Japanese soldiers shows up. It takes a Heroic Sacrifice from Kim-fay to ensure their escape isn't in vain.
- Les Collaborateurs: Chairman Liu, a corrupt business owner who is working for the Japanese forces about to take over Hong Kong.
- Love Triangle: One between Kim-fay, Hak-Keung and Nam. Eventually Kim-fay gives up his life for his friends to escape.
- Pineapple Surprise: When the boat of refugees gets detained by a Japanese patrol-boat in the middle of the South China Sea, with the Japanese soldiers ready to massacre everyone on board, Kim-fay tells the Japanese he's a defector and wished to speak to the Japanese captain... before revealing he had a potato masher grenade, obtained during his stint as a Japanese collaborator, hidden in his shirt the moment he's on the Japanese boat, its pin already removed. The subsequent explosion with Kim-fay right in its middle destroys the Japanese patrol boat allowing the refugees to escape.
- Railing Kill: Hak-keung, who throws a Japanese sergeant off a railing.
- Romantic Rain: Hak-keung and Nam has a bonding scene in the middle of rain partway through the film.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: : Hak-keung and Nam, besides their differences in social status, as she is the daughter of a wealthy rice merchant while he's merely a laborer and warehouse worker; they also have to contend that they may not live long enough to be with each other as war is about to break out. They eventually did escape from Hong Kong into South East Asia, thanks to Kim-fay's Heroic Sacrifice.
- Tragic Dream: Hak-keung, Kim-fay and Nam wants to leave their neighborhoods in rural Hong Kong ever since they were children, to explore the world outside and make it big beyond their dreams. But the Japanese invasion into Hong Kong happens as they were adults.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Yip Kim-fay struts around bare-chested while working in the rice warehouse. And female audiences gets an eyeful of Chow Yun-fat's abs.