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Raging Fire Review: Is Action-Packed Entertainer

The Hong Kong film industry is far from dead. Not least, Benny Chan demonstrated his typical cinematic prowess in the long-awaited ‘Raging Fire,’ which was regrettably his final directorial effort after passing suddenly unexpectedly from nasopharyngeal cancer last August at the age of 58.

Of course, Benny Chan was well-known as one of Hong Kong’s most acclaimed filmmakers, responsible for genre classics such as ‘A Moment of Romance’ (1990), ‘Big Bullet’ (1996), and ‘Gen-X Cops’ (1999). He is also responsible for teaming with Jackie Chan on four big movies, including ‘Who Am I?’ (1998), ‘New Police Story’ (2004), ‘Rob-B-Hood’ (2006), and ‘Shaolin’ (2011), despite Jackie only appearing in the latter film as a cameo.

‘Raging Fire’ marks Benny’s return to the cop-film genre after previously exploring wuxia (2016’s ‘Call of Heroes’) and sci-fi comedy (2017’s ‘Meow’). And his most recent action film about law enforcement was ‘The White Storm,’ an exciting throwback to ’80s heroic-bloodshed movies (2013). The story of ‘Raging Fire,’ which is credited to Benny Chan, Ling Wai-Chun, and Tong Yiu-Leung, treads on familiar ground and even fills in the gaps with various references to Chan’s previous films.

Donnie Yen, who worked in ATV’s ‘Fist of Fury’ series with the filmmaker in the 1990s, plays Regional Crime Unit inspector Cheung Shung-Bong. He used to work with his protégé Yau Kong-Ngo (Nicholas Tse), a rising cop who ends up in prison after a major case detailed in flashback. After being released from prison, Ngo has been seeking vengeance against Bong. Ngo and his gang of ex-police officers-turned-criminals (Henry Mak, Yu Kang, German Cheung, and Tony Wu) thwarted a police raid headed by Bong’s superior officer, Yiu Yeuk-Sing (Ray Lui), and killed everyone on sight. Aside from Bong, he also went against others who were responsible for his detention, including his former commander (Ben Yuen).

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Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse previously appeared on the same screen in ‘Dragon Tiger Gate’ (2006) and ‘Bodyguards and Assassins’ (2009), so it’s good to see them back again. The latter was most recently seen leading the cast in 2017’s ‘Cook Up a Storm’ before delving into the realm of culinary as a chef, and his return to Hong Kong cinema couldn’t come at a better moment. Tse is no stranger to antagonist roles (see ‘Shaolin,’ for example), and as the vindictive Yau Kong-Ngo in ‘Raging Fire,’ he does a fine job of expressing his rebellious appeal. Donnie Yen is at his finest as Bong, the regular virtuous cop, who immediately reminded me of the same character he played in ‘SPL’ (a.k.a. ‘Kill Zone’ in the US) and ‘Flash Point.’

Back to the tale, the film is a little too long, with a couple padded-out passages that should have been cut entirely. And, to be honest, this isn’t the first time Benny Chan’s films have been accused of extending the tale more than necessary (‘Shaolin’ and ‘The White Storm’ are two instances). Given that ‘Raging Fire’ plays it straight with the traditional themes of vengeance and injustice, Benny’s more frugal storytelling approach could have helped the film more. Something more in keeping with his sleek and pacy 90-minute actioner ‘Big Bullet’ from 1996.

In the meanwhile, Benny shines most in the action. The choreography is all thrillingly performed with enough vigor and ferocity, thanks to Donnie Yen, who also functioned as the film’s action director. This is especially noticeable during some of the intense hand-to-hand combat set-pieces, such as Bong’s final struggle with Ngo in the cathedral. The sequence itself is a nod to ‘SPL,’ with Bong wielding an expandable baton against Ngo’s butterfly blades. If that isn’t enough, Nicholas Tse also mimics the fighting styles of Donnie Yen and Wu Jing, and he appears convincing in terms of speed and agility.

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There are several well-choreographed gunfights and chases, as one would expect from Benny’s action pictures. The former contains a street sequence reminiscent of Michael Mann’s ‘Heat,’ while the latter has a scene worth mentioning: a high-speed chase between Bong’s SUV and Ngo’s motorcycle.

Even a year after Benny Chan’s unexpected death, it’s difficult to think that we won’t be able to see any of his future works. So, whether you like the director or Hong Kong action movies in general, do yourself a favor and watch ‘Raging Fire.’ The picture has its flaws, but as far as a big-budget Hong Kong action film goes, ‘Raging Fire’ is a wonderfully enjoyable piece of work.

Duration: 126 min

Release:

IMDb: 6.7

Raging Fire Review: Is Action-Packed Entertainer
Raging Fire Review: Is Action-Packed Entertainer
Raging Fire Review: Is Action-Packed Entertainer
Raging Fire Review: Is Action-Packed Entertainer
Raging Fire Review: Is Action-Packed Entertainer
Raging Fire Review: Is Action-Packed Entertainer
Raging Fire Review: Is Action-Packed Entertainer
Raging Fire Review: Is Action-Packed Entertainer

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