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Review: 'Raging Fire' (2021) Dir. Benny Chan

Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Qin Lan, Simon Yam, Ray Lui, Ben Yuen, Ken Lo, Patrick Tam, Kenny Wong, Deep Ng, Derek Koka and Mak Cheung-ching


This explosive Hong-Kong / Chinese action film was written, produced and directed by Benny Chan before his sad death on 23rd August 2020, and bookends his movie career perfectly...

Cheung Sung-bong (Yen) is haunted by demons of his past serving in a elite Kowloon Regional Crime Unit. Yau Kong-ngo (Tse) was working and studying under Sung-bong, but two very different styles of policing led to two very different outcomes for the pair.

Kong-ngo has now taken out a private vendetta against Sung-bong for actions that put the aspiring RCU officer in jail, and is now out commanding a unit of terrorists and hitmen to cause as much chaos as possible for the RCU.

Sung-bong must stand his ground with his new team of officers to battle the sprawling crime wave, but also protect those closest to him, such as pregnant wife Anna (Lan), as Kong-ngo sets his dangerous targets and will not stop until he has taken his brutal revenge...

When it comes to action films in Eastern cinema, the late Benny Chan is up there with the best. Sadly passing away in 2020 after a short battle with cancer (diagnosed during the production of Raging Fire, Chan has given us such ballistic action films like Who Am I?, New Police Story and Divergence. Here he takes everything he has learnt and crafted in over 4 decades of working in the industry for a fast-paced good cop v bad cop tale that puts former partners against each other in a dangerous Kowloon City.

Donnie Yen plays by the book cop Cheung Sung-bong who will not waver in the face of pressure and doing his moral duty. Nicholas Tse plays fallen protégé Yau Kong-ngo who fell in with the bad crowd of law enforcement and as such ended up in jail, and with a chip on his shoulder against Sung-bong and the unit he served with.

The action is up to some of Chan's best choregraphed, and it's far more bolder and brutal and before. The stunt work is still exemplar of Eastern cinema and the use of martial arts, gun play and using the environment around you as a weapon never gets old to see in a Western market flooded with CGI. Yen himself seems to dish out so much of the hurt and it's edited perfectly that you fully believe that even at the prime age of 58, he still retains that speed, strength and dexterity that has made him a star. But he uses his age to give Sung-bong a history and a life. A father to be, he has a career and family that he serves to protect and uphold and everything to lose.

On the flip side of Yen, we have Tse who has age on his side and is a brilliant talent to go up against Yen, favouring more destructive, explosive-fuelled methods of fighting. While Kong-ngo is now a former shadow of the officer he was, he's a dangerous man surrounded by equally dangerous people. Yet Tse has that fragility about him and the youth to spa against Yen physically and emotionally, especially in their more intimate scenes such as the police station interrogation.

Tse is the Anakin to Yen's Obi-Wan; a fallen apprentice to a master, but both hold respect for each other deep inside, despite the side of law they fight on due to choices they have made.

Chan creates a really atmospheric story with wonderful use of colouring and lighting; a sickly lit storm sets the scene when Tse turns to the "dark side" of policing, and Yen is mostly framed and lit in natural, crisp colours. It's little touches that help enhance each character and add some almost comic-book style to the locations, be it expansive bustling streets or shady alleys. The team also refrain from fast cuts in the action; we see the fights play out, the hits taken and the routes people choose to escape. It makes for a much more pleasing outcome being able to see (and feel!) what is going on with nothing cut away from camera.

We are paced with the action so there is time for character development, and there are a number of brilliantly shot and executed action sequences such as a dockside battle with Yen fending of numerous thugs, and a Kowloon car / motorbike chase on daytime streets that as so many practical stunts and performers it's a wonder nobody really got hurt! Again, a testament to Eastern filmmakers and their style. If it can't be done practically, then don't do it.

The finale throws caution to the wind for a climatic battle that encapsulates the street battle from Heat with plenty of practical effects, shooting and hand grenades being tossed around without a care in the world. Carnage, but on the most well staged level.

Raging Fire is solid film-making from a veteran of the industry, and it's a perfect film for Chan to have as his final offering to fans of cinema and action film in particular, because it doesn't disappoint with the amount of talent he has surrounded himself with for a gritty crime story.

A final flourish from Benny Chan with an action-packed thriller set in the dangerous world of policing. It's good cop v bad cop resting in very capable leads Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse battling against eachother.

'Raging Fire' is a co-production between Emperor Film Production Company, Tencent Pictures, Sil-Metropole Organisation, Maoyan Pictures, Super Bullet Pictures, One Cool Film Production, Central Motion Pictures and RBC Films Production

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