The Jail in Burning Island 1997 Review: It’s too simplistic and poorly made to succeed

This wannabe Ringo Lam flick from Chiu Yen-Ping starts with some promise. But rapidly devolves into something only slightly above his normal fetid celluloid tragedies. Takeshi Kaneshiro is a jailed cop who ends up forming bonds with the likes of former boxer Nicky Wu and triad boss Lau Hok-Yin. Also among the prisoners is Ng Man-Tat as a rich inmate and some bespectacled, overweight actor who should be shot for his horrid overacting. Anthony Wong has a large cameo as the warden.

At times, The Jail in Burning Island (Tra Lai Tinh Toi) tries to be Shawshank Redemption crossed with Prison on Fire. But it’s too simplistic and poorly made to succeed. The drama is overdone and clunky, and sometimes borders on the embarrassing. More that wasn’t good: whatever complexity the film tries to mine with its discussion of black versus white is lost by the end. When everyone throws their principles out the window. Furthermore, the subplot of Anthony Wong’s evil warden only surfaces in the last twenty minutes. Meaning that the previous eighty are free of the forces behind the films denouement.

Acting-wise, Ng Man-Tat, Lau Hok-Yin, and Takeshi Kaneshiro acquit themselves decently, though Kaneshiro sometimes goes waaaay overboard with the acting. Still, overacting is better than barely registering like his co-star Nicky Wu (Ngo Ky Long). Wu is plastic as all hell, and the scenes between he and Kok Siu-Man (the famous fat kid) blow huge. He’s totally unconvincing as the kid’s father. This could have been an okay time killer, but Chiu Yen-Ping did his best to ruin the movie. He succeeded.

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