The delicate paranoia, the gaping loneliness, the schizophrenic glamour. In his watershed crime classic, the scorsese-damaged "City on Fire", nothing interests Ringo Lam more than the knotty moral and emotional tangles of the undercover life. Chow Yun Fat plays Ko Chow, an undercover cop who infiltrates an enclave of jewel thieves and eventually gets sucked into an undertow of malice. Pretty soon, the line between what's prefab and what's true to life obscures to a blur and the secret identity becomes the alter ego. It is this precise moment that "City on Fire" snipes for dramatic grist. Navigating this hyperkinetic slalom of bullets, betrayal and broken hearts with all the cunning facility of a mastermind, there's a reason why Lam was name-checked by Hollywood, alongside John Woo and Tsui Hark. And it's not just because Quentin Tarantino tactlessly shoplifted chunks of "City on Fire" chapter and verse to surplus his meal ticket to Hollywood, "Reservoir Dogs". ( Indeed, Hollywood pundits have chosen to sweep this henious incident under the carpet or write it off as some kind of homage or the other). Lam is no castoff. And no John Woo parrot by any stretch. Woo has plied these dire straits before, in "Hardboiled" ,also with Chow Yun and a pre-Cannes Tony Leung. But "City on Fire" is a more feral, more raw, less heroic and ultimately more tragic picture. Far from just another "Honor Among Thieves" rehab, it upped the ante of your routine cops and robbers melee. And , more than ten years down the line, still strengthens the argument for Lam as more than a high-impact action specialist. Simply put, a director on fire.