Raging Fire review: Renowned Hong Kong director Benny Chan’s last ever movie, Raging Fire Movie Online has all the ingredients of a typical neo noir: Conflicted police officer, revenge plot, blood splatter – but the explosive thriller succeeds in bringing a kinetic, frantic energy to the genre that is fresh and keeps audiences captivated.
The Hong Kong feature had its UK premiere at the London East Asia Film Festival’s Opening Gala to a sold-out Odeon. It’s no surprise that people descended on the cinema, particularly as it was legendary action director Benny Chan’s last film before he died of cancer last year at the age of 58.
It was a fitting homage to a director whose decades-long career spans 21 features and two TV shows, and countless national and global awards.
Benny Chan reaches his zenith in this action- driven piece where the martial arts are dirty, the knives are sharp, and the guns are always loaded.
Donnie Yen plays Cheung Sung-pong, a quintessential ‘good cop’ who navigates the sometimes corrupt, other times clambering-up-the-social-ladder nature of police work. He bats away bribes and refuses to play politics with the crooked commissioner. This lands him in a spot of trouble and he, along with his team are left out of a career-making drugs bust that he’d been slaving over for four years.
Missing out on the action is just as well because the operation is a massacre thanks to former ‘bad cop’ Yau Kong-ngo (Nicholas Tse) and his team, who have a bone the size of Canada to pick with the police force after they were imprisoned for killing a suspect at the behest of their superior.
What follows is a game of Cat and Mouse, and as bodies start to pile up and Cheung Sung-pong battles with Kong-ngo’s vicious and obsessive need for revenge, he is drawn precariously close to the edge of morality.
The feature teases out a critique about police brutality and the dishonesty inherent in social climbing, themes which stand on a knife edge in terms of acceptable cinema in an increasingly censored China.
The action sequences are where Benny Chan shines: A mall shootout ends in a crimson shower, a sweaty car chase ends in explosions, a street shootout has grenades thrown about like that Oprah ‘One for you’ meme and there’s an exquisite MMA finale in a dilapidated church.
The camera shots pan from close and claustrophobic during monologues to wide angle brawls and first-person shooter gun fights. Chan plays around with the film’s colour palette, bringing vibrancy and life to Sung-pong’s scenes with his colleagues at the office, and with his wife, whereas a sickly yellow tone saturates Kong-ngo’s world, as though his very presence leaks illness and deceit.
LEAFF takes place over the course of 10 days and features 33 films from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Audiences across the world have long cultivated a voracious appetite for Asian cinema and the festival has been feeding it for six years. Once more it returns to whet audiences’ appetites and fill seats.