Director: Benny Chan
Stars: Nicholas Tse, Donnie Yen, Patrick Tam, Ray Lui, Henry Prince Mak, Yu Kang, Jeana Ho
Released: 12th November (UK)
Hong Kong Action Cinema has been a significant staple of my filmgoing life. They have produced countless classics that not everyone has seen. In 2020 the movement lost one of the greats, Benny Chan. His last film Raging Fire was shot entirely by the great man, but he could not work on the post-production due to his cancer treatment. While it may be his last, it potentially is one of his best.
While conducting a raid to arrest a drug lord, the police encounter a group of masked thugs. In a violent act of sabotage, the gang steals the drugs and murders the police officers on the scene. Arriving late, Inspector Cheung Shung-bong (Donnie Yen) is devastated to see the brutal aftermath, discovering the cop killers are led by Ngo (Nicholas Tse), his former protégé. Once a rising star in the police who was driven to a life of crime, he now bears a grudge. As their fates become entangled again, a score will be settled once and for all…
Raging Fire feels like a golden era Hong Kong action film with a modern twist. It’s a classic narrative of good versus evil with some thrilling twists and turns that keep you guessing. It reaffirms how important this movement is to the action genre, and Chan pays tribute to this prominent period of cinema. Pacing is crucial to the success of any film, and here Chan masterfully plays with the momentum. When it moves to a thrilling chase, he unfolds the scene with great fluidity and ease. During the high-octane scenes, the editing is quick, and the camera movement is ferocious. For a film that clocks at 128 minutes, it never truly stops its momentum, and in all honesty, you never want the film to end.
Raging Fire is a symphony of set pieces that are cleverly placed throughout. Each one demonstrates how Hong Kong action is so influential and superior to its western replicants. The eye is within the detail, and each blow is intricately executed. Donnie Yen yet again delivers the goods on the action front. He continuously goes up a gear for a man who is pushing sixty, and within this modern action extravaganza, he doesn’t fail. There is an excellent equilibrium between paying homage and shaking the conformities. Chan allows the past to dwell within the foreground and allows his characters to grow and develop. There is a more profound sense of understanding the cast here, making the film richer because of it.
As far as performances go, Nicholas Tse steals the show. Ngo’s past is what elevates his ark, and Tse is fully immersed within him. There is a sinister presence within his body language, but deep down, his naivete burdens him. Yen’s Shung-bong perfectly compliments Ngo. He isn’t perfect himself, and Chan makes you aware of this early on. Yen’s confrontations with Ngo are otherworldly and are worth the ticket price alone. Their commitment to these scenes are electrifying and brilliantly captured by Chan.
As the credits roll, there is a bittersweet sense to the whole experience. Benny Chan has given so much to Hong Kong cinema, and Raging Fire is a fitting film to remember how important and influential he was to cinema.
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