Island of Fire aka The Prisoner (1990) Review

Jackie Chan is The Prisoner

I was a teenage anarchist.

No, I wasn’t.

I was a teenage video store clerk.

Ok, I was 20 when I landed the job that would allow me to see more movies than anyone else I know, or have ever talked to.  

People ask me what my favorite job was, and I can still say without thinking, being a video store clerk. It was a dream job. I was a key holder of Movies and More in Culver City, California. Tai, the owner, said he’d hire me on as a part-timer. I loved working there and would be there when I wasn’t even supposed to have a shift, just to vacuum, clean up, and just help. I wanted to own the store, and if I didn’t move to Seattle and get married, I probably would’ve bought it and made it an epic video store.

That’s all in the past, but one thing that remains is my love for movies. My love for Jackie didn’t start there, but since he looks like an Asian version of my father, I can truly say that I watch his movies and think of my dad. For this review, I went back to the year 1990, for a Hong Kong movie that was directed by Kevin Chu. This movie is titled, “The Prisoner”, but international versions called it “Island of Fire”.

This is a story of convicts, and through narrative we learn why they are in prison. From the start, you find out that a cop is trying to figure out a murder that he witnessed, going only by one finger print, then we see a man trying to escape to see his son, and a man that accidentally kills a mob boss’s brother. Through the mix of stories, we see the humanity that is involved with stories of convicts, and all too familiar storytelling that you may have seen done in “Oz” albeit, with a much less focus on sensationalism (Jarvis, 2013).

As far as a Hong Kong action movie is concerned, this is not full of action. It has a variety of comedic elements, and minimal fights, so don’t expect to get a lot of kung fu action. It’s more along the lines of later dramas that Jackie Chan would be in. To that effect, he’s not even the main star, he’s just used to sell the movie. Andy Lau, Sammo Hung, and Tony Leung round out the cast, while Chan only has a minority part, and a few fight scenes. It should be noted here that Hong Kong cinema and the imagination of action cinema moved quite fast through Hollywood, and Asian cinema in general (Morris, 2004).

The movie flows quickly. The prison sections are interesting, including a knife fight that Chan gets involved with in a hurry, leaving you to wonder why there’s not more of him in the movie, considering the marketing.

“The Prisoner” has some grit here and there and finishes up quite nicely.  For Jackie Chan purists, “The Prisoner” is not going to sit well because of the false advertising. But other than that, it’s a solid dramatic, action-oriented movie.

You can purchase, stream, watch, or review “Island of FIre” aka “The Prisoner” (1990) by clicking here, you know you want to.


Jarvis, B. (2013). The violence of images: Inside the prison TV drama Oz. In Captured by the Media (pp. 164-181). Willan.

Morris, M. (2004). Transnational imagination in action cinema: Hong Kong and the making of a global popular culture. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies5(2), 181-199.

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