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Raging Fire - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Nou Fo

Hong Kong 2021

Action, Crime

Benny Chan

Donnie Yen
Nicholas Tse
Qin Lan
Ray Lui
Ben Yuen
Ken Lo
Ben Lam
Patrick Tam

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Raging Fire

Raging Fire - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Cheung Sung-bong (Donnie Yen) is an extremely righteous policeman who keeps getting into trouble for not taking any bribes. This is also the reason why he and his team are not part of an operation to prevent a drug deal. However, the two gangs involved are eliminated by Yau Kong-ngo (Nicholas Tse) and his men, who then take the drugs and the money. They also gun down the police who are arriving. Yau and his team used to be police officers themselves four years ago, and then their superior ordered them to find the whereabouts of a kidnapped millionaire at any cost. However, when the informant dies during the "interrogation", but not without revealing the desired information first, Yau and his men end up in court. Their supervisor breaks his promise and does not have their backs, and Cheung, who used to have a good relationship with Yau, also testifies that he saw the police officers resort to violence. The three and a half years that the policemen had to spend in prison changed them. Now they are working on the other side of the law, and they want revenge. In the meantime, Cheung does not yet suspect that Yau and his men could be responsible for the massacre during the drug deal, but soon the clues add up and he has his first confrontation with Yau. A bloody battle breaks out in the streets of Hong Kong.

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Raging Fire - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Nowadays, spectacular Hong Kong action gets only put on screen by a few directors, and Benny Chan is probably at the top of those few. Unfortunately, "Raging Fire" was his last movie, as he died in 2020 after a sudden cancer diagnosis. This circumstance may have led to the fact that the movie was reviewed a little more favorably by most critics, at least that's my impression. Besides, Chan's works such as "Invisible Target" and "The White Storm" turned out a little too superficial as to really call them good movies, but his thriller "Connected" or his Wuxia flick "Call of Heroes" were actually pretty well-done. "Raging Fire" unfortunately falls into the first category. The action and sets are sometimes breathtaking, but the script is kind of a joke. Nevertheless, if you see it as an homage to the HK cinema of the 90s, it might have a right to exist.

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Basically, this action flick is a mixture of movies like "Expect the Unexpected", Chan's aforementioned "Invisible Target" and Michael Mann's "Heat". The latter not only because the gun-fight in the streets looks similar, but also because the villain gets to have a human side and a tragic backstory. That is quite laudable, but you can never really tell whether it works. Nicholas Tse clearly upstages everyone else, and after movies like "Cook Up a Storm" it's nice to see him in a role again in which he can show off his martial arts skills. Yau has the look of a madman in his eyes, and you never know how he will react next. But if you are going to give Tse's character a backstory, then it would have been nice to at least show us why he suffers from PTSD. The information that he had a hard time in prison and the scars on his face alone are not enough.

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Moreover, there is a longer flashback in which we see the hero and villain together, but you can't really make out any buddy-like relationship. A big problem in "Raging Fire", because the movie pushes the drama on every occasion. Cheung and his colleagues sit together after a (more or less unsuccessful) mission, and they complain about feeling like they're fighting windmills. Many dialogues seem as if they had been copied from Hong Kong movies from 20-30 years ago and as if the director wanted to pass them off as cool or even profound. But in the end, they are just hackneyed, the same goes for a scene during a hearing of Cheung, in which, without being asked, the whole team expresses its opinion about Cheung and how no one else puts as much heart and soul into his work as Cheung does. You don't have to expect action movies to be well-written, but even someone who hasn't seen countless HK flicks would have to admit that the script is very clichéd.

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In addition, the soundtrack is pretty annoying by pointlessly pushing itself into the foreground all the time and by trying to make clear to us whether we are supposed to admire the drama or the action at a specific moment. But as I mentioned before, you can forget about the drama. There would have been some potential here, but the script doesn't manage to properly flesh out the characters, and therefore it doesn't provide a good breeding ground for the revenge story. That only leaves the action. And yes, the action is really impressive. There is an incredibly high energy and while the camera is often unnecessarily in motion even in quieter scenes - trying to create a certain dynamic and to underline the supposed "epic dimensions" of the revenge story -, here the camera work actually manages to score some points. In addition, there is some variety: sometimes we get a chase, then a small shoot-out, later a large-scale gunfight right in the middle of the street, and there is also a showdown in which we get to see some martial arts. You can't ask for more.

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However, especially the big gunfight lacks a bit of soul, perhaps because it is supposed to be an homage to "Heat". Nevertheless, the sets are wonderfully staged, especially a run-down neighborhood with smaller sheet metal buildings comes to mind which the protagonist fights his way through. An appropriately high level of brutality also manages to be convincing and turns the stakes pleasantly high. There is certainly a lot of suspense, but that's just due to the action, as we're never really that interested in the characters. Donnie Yen does a solid acting job, but that's about it. However, his action choreography is wonderful, and he even quotes himself in the finale by reviving the alley fight from "SPL". Then there is also a little grappling and Nicholas Tse's energy. In the end, despite everything, we only get an entertaining but generic action flick, though, which - on closer inspection - has received a bonus from many critics just because it was Chan's last movie. Benny Chan could do better, and it's really sad that he won't be able to prove this once more. But his life's work certainly remains impressive (especially from a commercial point of view).

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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