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As the Light Goes Out - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Gau foh ying hung

Hong Kong 2013

Action, Drama

Derek Kwok

Nicholas Tse
Shawn Yue
Andy On
Simon Yam
Hu Jun
Bai Bing
Patrick Tam
Liu Kai-Chi

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As the Light Goes Out

As the Light Goes Out - Film Screenshot 1

Story: After a failed rescue mission, the firefighters Sam (Nicholas Tse), Chill (Shawn Yue) and Yip (Andy On) have to explain themselves in front of a committee. Yip sends the other two to their doom and in the end, Sam takes the blame all by himself. Since then, some time has passed and Sam decided to be transferred, while Chill tries to take care of his son a little bit more, which is why he takes him to his field trip at a power station with his fire truck. In the meantime, Yip has also becomes their superior and so there is a lot of tension between them. Because of the experienced firefighter Ocean (Hu Jun), the soon to be retired Tao (Simon Yam) has to deal with someone who is giving him a lot of competition. In addition, the fire station is extremely short-staffed because it's Christmas, and the smoke development in a wine cellar is the only serious mission on that day. Soon, the situation is under control, but the tension between Yip and Sam results in them not checking a nearby oil pipe. However, after the fire department has left the scene, Sam can't stop thinking about the oil pipe. If it heated up too much during the fire, it could lead to a disaster. In the meantime at the power station, people notice a strange increase in pressure in one of the lines. But shutting down power on Christmas is unthinkable. A disaster is bound to happen.

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As the Light Goes Out - Film Screenshot 4

Review: There are exactly two aspects that make "As the Light Goes Out" pretty interesting. First of all, its focus, because it is not fire which is the almost demon-like threat that devours everything, but rather its more subtle but also more deadly brother smoke. Apart from some not always perfectly computer-animated smoke, the movie manages to show us some interesting scenes. But the movie's second focus seems to lie on its characters, which sounds promising. Especially the long introduction makes you believe that you are actually dealing with a character drama within the fire fighter genre. However, this is where you are heading for a big disappointment as Derek Kwok doesn't know how to make use of the given potential. The more the story progresses, the more it gets caught up in genre clichés, which mostly have something to do with stupid coincidences and the firefighters' unwavering willingness to sacrifice themselves.

As the Light Goes Out - Film Screenshot 5

Nevertheless, at the beginning, we are very interested in the characters. Nicholas Tse and Andy On have already been on screen together in "The Viral Factor" and their two characters represent the most important relationship within the story. A betrayed friendship caused by Yip's ambitions, but Yip still doesn't want to lose his friend. This is not bad and creates enough drama in some scenes. It's a pity, however, that we don't get to see a serious triangular relationship, because in the end, plot-wise Shawn Yue's ("Helios") character should actually be part of this "bromance". But we do not get this kind of bromance after all. Instead, it develops between people like Tao, played by Simon Yam ("Two Thumbs Up"), and Ocean, portrayed by Hu Jun ("Firestorm"). It works quite nicely, but we still expected a little bit more.

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The other thing which stands out in a negative way, is the willingness of most portrayed firefighters to sacrifice themselves. A lot of times the reasons for that are inexplicable, as there would be numerous alternatives and because of that scenes like these don't even have that much of a dramatic effect on the audience. It's simply illogical when a character doesn't get himself into safety and throws a match - which is meant to make a room explode in order to create a way out - right in front of him instead of using the safe distance of another room. Apart from that, you are by all means, willing to accept some genre typical coincidences here and there. For instance, it is mostly a power struggle and pressure from the top which slowly brings the catastrophe about. And the fact that, of all people, Chill's son is at the power station which is about to explode and that he has to be saved by his father, is anything but original. But as long as it creates suspense, you are willing to accept that.

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Sadly, the level of suspense shows us, that the characters' fates do not affect us as deeply as they should. What glues us to the screen is not the drama about their potential sacrifices, but the fast editing, the soundtrack and the explosions. Too bad, because after the character-centered introduction you would have expected more. Nevertheless, action-wise, you cannot complain, except for the fact that the director kind of loses control in his biggest action sequence and things get a little too chaotic. Fire and smoke are partly physical effets, but most of the time computer-generated. This looks either more or less good, but never really terrible. A nice touch is that smoke is portrayed as a firefighter's real enemy. It almost has something tangible to it and cloaks the men like a demon grasping for their souls, and all of this is also accompanied by a creepy soundtrack. In fact, it's moments of isolation like these which reveal the firefighter's traumas.

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However, only Ocean's trauma is portrayed believably as he lost his child in a fire. Otherwise, "As the Light Goes Out" simply has too little to offer in this respect. The individuals should have been fleshed out more, even though you can't hold it against the director, as he seemingly gave his best. Especially if you consider the number of people we have here not being simply flat characters. Nonetheless, it is still not enough to create a real drama. If Derek Kwok had carried on his focus from the beginning of the movie, you could have shed a tear over some deaths, but this way, it leaves us astonishingly cold. Maybe, this is also due to the fact that the movie uses too many genre clichés, which is why we can't take it serious at some point anymore. Despite the in parts harsh words of this review, you still get an interesting action movie, whose actual protagonist is smoke instead of fire, and which has some nice peculiarities (for instance, a Jackie Chan cameo, in which he promotes the fire department with an over-the-top disaster scenario in a TV spot, which the firefighters make fun of). Certainly enough for an entertaining movie evening.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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