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March 1995, Week 4


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Shawn Levy <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 23 Mar 1995 10:10:19 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Ann McConnell asked:
>Finally, to bring an overdue international slant to this thread: Has anyone
>seen the documentary that gives a shot-by-shot analysis of RESERVOIR DOGS and
>Ringo Lam's CITY ON FIRE?  I had heard that RD owed a lot to this Hong Kong
>film, but from what I've read, this documentary makes it sound like
>out-and-out plagiarism.  Maybe Quentin Tarantino is to film what Pat Boone
>was to pop music, stealing the little-seen inspiration of the ethnic "Other"
>and making it palatable for young, white America.
I have seen CITY ON FIRE on video, all set to watch all the rip-offs.  In a
badly mastered video (and atrociously subtitled, BTW), what I saw was a
rather routine 2-hour Chow Yun Fat movie that had maybe 90 seconds that were
also in RESERVOIR DOGS in very, very different contexts.  There's an
undercover cop in CITY ON FIRE who gets involved in a jewel heist at his
superiors' behest, but the film is primarily about the travials of the
undercover cop's life, a power struggle between his bosses, and the
psychological cost of his becoming friendly with the criminals he eventually
betrays.  When the final jewelry heist goes down, there's a shot of a guy
firing two guns at a police car, there's a three-way pistol standoff at the
rendezvous, and there's a scene where the cop confesses to the crook that he
was sent to betray him.  But, as I say, it all amounts to a minute or so,
it's all handled differently, and RESEVOIR DOGS is shot and scored MUCH more
palatably to my eyes.
If you want to call this plagiarism, go ahead.  But be prepared to call
Joyce a plagiarist of Homer, Shakespeare a plagiarist of Hollinshed, etc.
There's so little of CITY ON FIRE in RD that I'd hesitate to say anything
more than that it was "inspired by a few moments of an earlier film."  And
the fact that someone went out and made a documentary on this theme strikes
me as truly pathetic.  For some reason, Tarantino inspires assassins
throughout the critical and filmmaking world.  If I had to guess, I'd think
the documentarian found the success of RD and PULP FICTION appalling in a
'why-didn't-I-think-of-that-first?' way.  It's
a non-story.
     Shawn Levy       |   "In a far recess of summer
 [log in to unmask]  |    Monks are playing soccer."