In 1987, a film starring Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee was released that would receive much critical acclaim and form the basis for much discussion among film buffs around the world. Yet, not so surprisingly, the film and the subsequent flame wars would escape the attention of the general audience of filmgoers.
City On Fire focused on a Hong Kong based undercover police officer on a mission to infiltrate a group of robbers. After successfully working his way into the trust of the group's leader, Fu (Danny Lee), he finds himself developing a sense of brotherhood with the leader and camraderie with the rest of the group. This causes much friction between his sense of duty and his growing loyalty to those he swore to bring down.
In 1992, Quentin Tarantino released his directorial effort, Reservoir Dogs, to critical acclaim and eventual cult status. The premise of Tarantino's film focused on a group of thugs who are hired to rob a diamond warehouse. The mix of witty dialogue and unflinching violence proved to be a winning combination with the audience and acted as a template for Tarantino's future efforts.
Shortly after its release, the questions about source material began. While Tarantino has always been upfront about his love for cult-status films and his special affinity for Hong Kong action movies, in the case of Reservoir Dogs, he made no acknowledgements about the "homage" that he pays with the film.
To wit, the following similarities have been noted between Reservoir Dogs and City on Fire1:
- Just before the robbers in City on Fire rob a jewelery store, one of them says "Let's go to work".
- The relationship between Chow (the undercover cop) and Fu (the gangster) is mirrored by that of Orange and White. There is also a similar relationship with Chow and his supervisor/Mr. Orange and Holdaway.
- One of the gang members kills a shop girl in the jewelery shop for setting off the alarm. Although not shown in RD, it is talked about.
- There is a scene where Chow is shot by a cop and kills him. In RD, Orange is shot by a woman and kills her.
- Fu is shooting cops in a car by shooting at them with two guns, when they must try and escape after their getaway car crashes. In RD, Mr. White is seen doing the same thing.
- In the warehouse there is a Mexican standoff.
- A dying Chow tells Fu that he is a cop. In RD, a dying Mr. Orange tells Mr. White that he is a cop.
- During the jewelery store robbery in COF, Fu stabs the manager in the hand when he won't open the safe. In RD, Mr. White relates a similar way he gets managers to talk.
Buoyed by the success of RD, Tarantino has gone on to further success with his subsequent films, all of which have included his "homage" to his love of pulp film. In most cases, he has gone on record and discussed at length the various styles that he's paid "homage"to and the related source material.
In the case of his first major success, however, he still steadfastly refuses to make that acknowledgement, other than to say that COF is one of his favourite films.
1 - Sourced from Quentin Tarantino FAQ (http://www.godamongdirectors.com/tarantino/faq/Quentin_FAQ.txt>