Influential Hong Kong action filmmaker Ringo Lam passed away on Saturday from undisclosed reasons at his Hong Kong home. He was 63. Deadline and Variety are among the various publications verifying this tragic news.
Though he started out in directing comedy films, Lam was renowned internationally for his high octane action/crime films, most notably his fruitful collaborations with Hong Kong icon Chow Yun Fat. The partnership resulted in four films: City on Fire (1987), Prison on Fire (1988) and its sequel Prison on Fire II (1991), and the vastly overlooked Full Contact (1992). City on Fire in particular was cited as a major inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992). He had also attempted a sort-of return to his comedy roots, co-directing the Jackie Chan action comedy Twin Dragons (1992) with Tsui Hark, which became a hit in his native Hong Kong.
Lam attempted to break into Hollywood in 1996 with the Jean-Claude Van Damme thriller Maximum Risk (1996). When that movie didn’t perform as well as he’d expected, Lam briefly returned to Hong Kong to helm Full Alert (1997), which ended up getting five Hong Kong Film Award nominations. Lam and Van Damme would later collaborate two further times with Replicant (2001) and In Hell (2003).
Following an eight-year hiatus after completing Triangle (2007) with fellow Hong Kong film giants Tsui Hark and Johnnie To, Lam returned to filmmaking this decade with Wild City (2015). His final film, Sky on Fire (2016), was a critical and commercial failure upon release.
Celebrities took to social media to express their condolences over Lam’s death. Van Damme posted on his Twitter: “I’m deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Ringo Lam. My heart goes out to his family, friends and loved ones.” Daniel Wu, star of Sky on Fire, posted on Facebook and Instagram his tribute: “A true maestro of film — you will be dearly missed.”
Lam brought plenty of style and raw, fast energy to his films, often enhancing his action sequences far more effectively than most other filmmakers of that era. Before the release of Sky on Fire, he told the South China Morning Post in a pensive interview, “I am at an age where I have something to say about life. What is life? There’s nothing that I can do to decide when it ends. I am powerless and I am very angry, so I put that all onto the screen.”
Godspeed, good sir.
I’m deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Ringo Lam. We worked together on Maximum Risk, In Hell and Replicant.
My heart goes out to his family, friends and loved ones.
— JCVD Official (@JCVD) December 29, 2018
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I woke up this morning to find out legendary Hong Kong director Ringo Lam has passed. We worked on my last and what would be Director Lam’s last Hong Kong film Sky on Fire together. Director of such classics as City on Fire, Prison on Fire and Full Alert, Ringo was part of Hong Kong’s New Wave movement from the late 80’s to early 90’s that put Hong Kong cinema on the map. A true maestro of film you will be dearly missed. Rest In Peace sir! We will carry on your legacy!