In "City on Fire," Chinese superstar Chow Yun-Fat adopts a familiar persona, the sardonic cop who goes under cover and becomes mixed up with really bad bad-guys, and finds a friend among the killers.

In this case he is reluctant to enter the game and only takes the case because his aging uncle - a veteran police detective - needs his help.

Chow passes himself off as a petty crook and gradually ingratiates himself into the right - or wrong - circles to join up with a gang of ruthless jewel thieves. They plot a big heist and he comes aboard.

Subplots abound, as Chow's girlfriend tries to get him to marry her, as Chow's uncle is shoved aside for new blood and as Chow finds himself aligned with the cop-killer he's trying to nail. And in the end, Chow's character naturally finds he has crossed the line.

Evocatively directed by Ringo Lam (who also produced and wrote the original story), "City On Fire" is loaded with flashy imagery that nicely walks territory previously staked out by John Huston in the '40s, Sam Peckinpah in the '60s, Martin Scorsese in the '70s and John Woo in the '80s.

It's rated a probable R for considerable violence, some profanity and a brief sex scene with nudity.