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Raging Fire (Nou Fo, 怒火)

Director – Benny Chan – 2021 – Hong Kong – Cert.15 – 126m

***1/2

A cop comes up against his former disillusioned protégé who is now the mastermind behind a criminal gang – in cinemas from Friday, November 12th

A big deal is about to go down. Uber-honest cop Cheung Sung-bong (Donnie Yen) heads a unit constantly in trouble with his superiors owing to his refusal to take pay offs and play their corruption game. They consequently repeatedly block him from accessing supplies and equipment he and his men need to properly do their job. This has gone on for years, with officers cracking under the inevitable strain from time to time. One such is his protégé Yau Kong-ngo (Nicholas Tse), booted off the force for beating a suspect to death. Cheung has kept in touch with him in the interim.

The night of the big deal, Cheung is denied his team’s required equipment and consequently arrives late to the scene of the incident. The absence of Cheung’s expertise on site causes a fellow police colleague to be killed along with various gang members. Unbeknownst to Cheung, the second gang involved in the deal – which double-crosses the first – is headed up by the disillusioned Yau.

Plot and script are efficient action fare, nothing more. Leading man Yen has an extremely limited range as an actor. However, that’s not the reason he’s there in films like this, which is rather his considerable physical prowess as a stunt player and choreographer. Which pays off here in spades.

At one point, Chueng / Yen is pursuing a suspect to a car park where he loses them. So he goes to the edge of the multi-storey building, jumps off the balcony to descend about three floors onto a ledge below, then jumps on to a fast moving car in the street below that.

A further extraordinary sequence amalgamates the fight scene and the car chase. One man is in a car, the other is on a bike. Whilst driving / rising at quite some speed, they engage in hand-to-hand combat through the right hand car window.

We are not talking Hollywood style special effects, green screen or any such: these guys do it for real. The results (as in so many Hong Kong movies) are exhilarating. At least, that was what I originally wrote. Then I turned up the following still, which suggests use of blue screen technology on the current film. Oh, well.

For the finale, Chueng / Yen confronts Yau /Tse in a huge church interior with lots of scaffolding around. You can’t help but think of the precursor ending of The Killer (John Woo, 1989), incidentally also copied by Irish thriller Pixie (Barnaby Thompson, 2020), but this reaches nowhere near the level of either that sequence or the original film from which it comes, playing out not as transcendent but merely borrowed style. Nails enter flesh and you can’t but help think, religious imagery. However, if it’s a metaphor, the filmmakers don’t seem to know exactly for what it’s supposed to stand.

This is hugely enjoyable and great fun to watch – especially on a screen as big as the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square where LEAFF, the London East Asia Film Festival played it – and an unquestionable audience pleaser. It is, however, shallow. The film was the final entry in the career of director Chan who died in 2021, having directed the film but been too ill to participate in its post-production. So while we should be glad the film was completed and made it into distribution, it’s entirely possible the completed film is not exactly how he would have done it (although hats off to all those personnel who saw it through to completion in his absence, no mean feat). Chan’s first movie A Moment Of Romance (2021) also plays during the festival.

Raging Fire is out in cinemas from Friday, November 12th. It was the Opening Gala of LEAFF, the London East Asia Film Festival while A Moment Of Romance played in LEAFF’s Retrospective section.

Trailer (Raging Fire):

Trailer (A Moment Of Romance):

London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) programme (please click links):

Opening Gala,

Official Selection, Competition, Hong Kong Focus, Documentary, Retrospective,

Closing Gala.

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