Ringo Lam, Director of Hong Kong Classic ‘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 Dec. 29 at his home in Hong Kong. He was 63.
The police confirmed Mr. Lam’s death. The cause was unknown, the police said, but 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.
After the unexpected success of his fourth feature film, the action-comedy “Aces Go Places IV” (1986), Mr. Lam was offered a rare opportunity: 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,” Mr. Lam said in a 2015 interview. “Eventually I decided that I enjoyed the realistic aspects of ‘The French Connection’ ” ― the 1971 American movie directed by William Friedkin ― “and that I wanted to create a film containing similar grit.”
“我感到困惑，起初我不知道要拍什么，”林在2015年一次采访中说。“最终我决定，我很喜欢《法国贩毒网》(The French Connection)里面的写实，”――威廉・弗里德金(William Friedkin)1971年导演的美国电影――“而且我想要拍一部有类似的强悍的电影。”
He came up with “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 in mayhem when a jewelry store heist goes wrong.
The film, which plays on the themes of brotherhood and honor among thieves, became an instant hit, earning Mr. Lam best director honors at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 1988. Today, “City on Fire” 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 churned out two more films as part of a 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 a major inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s cult favorite “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) which so closely resembled Mr. Lam’s movie in plot points and staging that it raised questions about plagiarism.
《龙虎风云》是昆汀・塔伦蒂诺(Quentin Tarantino)的小众经典《落水狗》(Reservoir Dogs, 1992)的主要灵感来源，该片与林岭东的电影在情节点和呈现上如此相像，以至于引发了抄袭的质疑。
“It’s a really cool movie,” Mr. Tarantino told The Baltimore Sun in 1995, referring to “City on Fire.” “It influenced me a lot. I got some stuff from it.”
“那真是一部很酷的电影，”塔伦蒂诺在1995年接受《巴尔的摩太阳报》(The Baltimore Sun)采访时提到这部电影。“它给了我很大影响。我从中获得了一些东西。”
Questions about whether Mr. Tarantino had plagiarized his work followed Mr. Lam throughout his career. “I have been asked this question so many times,” he told an interviewer in 1996. “I don’t think about it.”
Ringo Lam was born Lam Ling-tung on Dec. 8, 1955, in Hong Kong, then a British crown colony. After graduating from St. Peter’s Secondary School in Hong Kong in 1973, he enrolled in performing arts classes organized by the local broadcaster TVB.
林岭东1955年12月8日生于香港，那时候香港还是英国的直辖殖民地。1973年在香港圣伯多禄中学(St. Peter’s Secondary School)毕业后，他报名参加了香港电视广播有限公司(TVB)举办的艺员训练班。
After studying and working at TVB, Mr. Lam moved to Toronto, where he studied filmmaking at York University. He returned to Hong Kong in 1982 and there, with the help of the director Tsui Hark, got a job at the Cinema City production company, which later backed “City on Fire.”
Mr. Lam went on to make movies at a rapid-fire pace from 1983 to 2003, releasing one nearly every year and sometimes two in one year. Several were direct-to-DVD collaborations with the action star Jean-Claude Van Damme.
1983年至2003年间，林岭东继续以闪电般的速度制作电影――几乎每年出一部，有时甚至一年两部。其中有几部是与动作明星尚格・云顿(Jean-Claude Van Damme)合作的直接发行影碟的电影。
In 1996, Mr. Lam made his directorial debut in the United States with “Maximum Risk,” an action thriller starring Mr. Van Damme. The next year, “Full Alert,” a blood-spattered Hong Kong action movie directed and written in part by Mr. Lam, won critical acclaim.
1996年，林岭东以《极度冒险》(Maximum Risk)完成了他在美国的导演首秀。次年，由林岭东执导并参与编剧的一部鲜血四溅的香港动作片《高度戒备》(Full Alert)获得了评论界的称赞。
“I believed that I had killed too many people onscreen in my previous films, and when I looked back at all the violence, it sometimes made me shudder,” he said in 2015, referring to “Full Alert.” “Yet because reality is brutal and full of violence, I felt compelled to show it.”
Complete information on Mr. Lam’s survivors was not immediately available.
In his later life Mr. Lam stepped back from filmmaking, with a few exceptions, citing a desire to devote time to his personal life. At his death, he was said to be working with other Hong Kong luminaries, among them Johnnie To, Ann Hui and Mr. Woo, on “Eight and a Half,” a long-planned eight-part film exploring Hong Kong’s history from the 1940s to the present.
在人生的最后几年里，除少数几部影片外，林岭东暂时放下了电影制作。据说去世前，他在和包括杜琪峰、许鞍华和吴宇森在内的其他香港其他杰出人物合拍《八部半》(Eight and a half)，这是一部规划已久的八位导演执导的电影，旨在探索香港从20世纪40年代至今的历史。
“I am at an age where I have something to say about life,” Mr. Lam told The South China Morning Post in 2016 after he had begun shooting “Sky on Fire.” His mother had died not long before.
“What is life? There’s nothing that I can do to decide when it ends,” he said. “I am powerless, and I am very angry, so I put that all onto the screen.”