The first part of the movie takes place in Bangkok, Thailand. Ko Fei's (Chow Yun-fat) friend Sam Sei (Anthony Wong) borrows money from a loan shark to give Ko Fei's departed mother a proper burial. The loan shark kidnaps Sam, and Ko Fei rescues him by confronting the loan shark and persuading him to give more time for Sam to re-pay the loan. The loan shark does not comply and orders his cohorts to kill Sam, but Ko Fei punches two of them before he engages a knife fight with the remaining gang members. After doing so, the loan shark attempts to shoot Ko Fei, but he wrestles the gun out of the shark's grasp, frees a trapped Sam Sei and escapes. Not wanting to lose face, the loan shark promises to kill them, so Ko Fei and Sam Sei flee the city.
To earn money, they team up with Sam's cousin Judge (Simon Yam) for a heist. The group meets up, although a fight between Ko Fei's and Judge's friend (Chung and Psycho respectively) breaks out, which is triggered by Ko Fei making remarks about Lau Ngang. After the initial group meeting, Judge, meanwhile, is offered money from the loan shark to kill Ko Fei and Sam during the heist.
The heist begins with Ko Fei blocking traffic while Lau Ngang tosses a grenade into an irate driver's car, which explodes. The intended target is a lorry and the group shoots and kills the passengers. Psycho gets in the truck but kicks Chung out and prevents him from boarding. The heist is successful, but Judge betrays Ko Fei by attempting to kill him, only to kill Chung instead. A car chase ensues between the two. The scene ends when Ko Fei flips his car up-side down. Judge examines the wreckage only to be ambushed by Ko Fei. Another fight ensues, Judge slices Ko Fei's right finger and thumb but is interrupted by a resident who shoots in the air telling them to leave.
The stolen truck, now occupied by Lau Ngang and Psycho, shoot at the house, killing everyone but a girl. Ko Fei takes shelter, but Sam Sei appears with a gun intending to kill Ko Fei (at the behest of Judge), but shoots him once in the chest and the rest at the floor. Sam Sei walks out with a pair of bloody eyes to prove that he has "killed" Ko Fei (Judge made remarks about Ko Fei's "mesmerising eyes" earlier). Convinced, he shoots the pressure cooker, causing it to explode, burning alive the previously shot resident and the girl, leaving her with 3rd degree burns.
Ko Fei, assumed to be dead, returns to the city, finding Sam now a competent gangster. Seemingly seeking revenge, he steals the shipment of guns Judge was hoping to sell and ransoms them back. The money is for the hospital stricken girl burned in the fire fight. The pair meet again, but not before Ko Fei guns down all of Judge's cohorts including Psycho. Judge gives Ko Fei the money and asks for the goods, but Ko Fei simply detonates the goods in the end, much to Judge's chagrin. The two shoot at each other, but it's Ko Fei who gains the upper hand when he throws his butterfly knife at Judge. Ko Fei finally kills Judge before quipping "Go masturbate in hell!"Chow Yun-fat as Ko Fei
Simon Yam as Judge
Anthony Wong as Sam Sei
Ann Bridgewater as Mona
Bonnie Fu as Lau Ngang
Frankie Chan as Deano
Nam Yin as Loanshark Hung
Victor Hon Kwan as Kau
Chris Lee as Chung
Chun Hung as Julianne
In an interview with the Hong Kong Film Archive, Lam described the difference between his more political films and Full Contact, stating that he did not want to create a film with "that had anything to do with the sociological or political issues and situations of the time. I wanted to wash my hands of them and start with a clean slate. People had threatened to chop me up, accused me of having wrong political views and I didn’t want to have anything to do with those things. I wanted to make a film with a style no one could put a finger on."
Full Contact was released in Hong Kong on 23 July 1992. It grossed a total of HK$16,793,011.
Variety referred to the film as "Fast, fierce and gleefully tasteless" while noting that it lacked the "transcendent style" of the John Woo films starring Chow Yun-fat. The Austin Chronicle referred to the story of the film as the "more or less the same old thing" while stating that "Despite the obvious comparisons to Woo's films, Full Contact survives on its own gritty merits. It's a down-and-dirty little actioneer that leaves you squirming, breathless in your seat."
In Time Out, it was described as "Super-slick, making opportune use of Bangkok locations, and relishing every violent episode, the film's unquestionably good of its type, but also sleazy and soulless." Film 4 gave a negative review of the film, opining it was a "dated and discomforting B-movie" noting weakness in the characterization and plot. Sight & Sound stated in 1998 that the film was "Lam's most generic work" comparing the first half of the film as like watching a Theatre of Cruelty. The review went on to state the second half of the film differs "When Chow's gunslinger returns home to find his wife living with his best friend, the film becomes a perceptive and tough-minded dissection of a romantic triangle. The shifting alliances and emotional stalemates are played out with sympathy and subtlety, suggesting a personal motivation behind the film's making."
In 2014, Time Out polled several film critics, directors, actors and stunt actors to list their top action films. Full Contact was listed at 89th place on this list.