What do you get when you take a righteous seasoned cop with a pregnant wife; a rogue unit of ex-officers hell-bent on bloody revenge; a vicious underworld kingpin; elaborate heists underpinning street-level action sequences; a hierarchy of corrupt police officials and enough melodramatic montages sequences painted on so thick it would put a Spanish telenovela to shame? All of which plays out under the brilliantly pretentious eighties-esque throwback banner of Raging Fire?
Well in most cases you’d be forgiven for assuming a straight-to-VOD late night stoner fix.
But in surprisingly twist, Raging Fire manages to hit the ground running, delivering a thoroughly entertaining and dramatic actioner, that while occasionally touching on the satirical, proves itself a genuine contender in the over-saturated Hong Kong cop genre. And, in a bittersweet turn, a worthy final film in the award winning and influential career of writer/ director Benny Chan (Gen-X Cops, New Police Story, Divergence) who sadly succumbed to nasopharyngeal cancer in August of 2020.
Set in contemporary Hong Kong, minus any reference or acknowledgment of the island’s current political turmoil, Raging Fire embraces its ambition with abandon, while thankfully utilising its two main stars, Donny Yen (IP Man, Star Wars: Rouge One) and Nicholas Tse (Dragon Tiger Gate) to keep the wild action sequences and impressive body count grounded.
In fact, Yen and Tse’s performances as former colleagues turned enemies is without question the narrative heart of the film, no small order when you consider the screen time dedicated to the movies elaborate and frequent action sequences. Yen, who also directed much of the stunt and martial arts work, brings a defined depth to his role as the veteran cop whose morality has kept him from climbing the ranks, while Tse plays the perfect counter point as the disgraced former cop seeking revenge on the system that dishonoured his loyalty.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t completely fire on all cylinders, with many of the support characters either falling into cliché territory or simply lacking any real definition, while some of the transitions between scenes can be distractingly jarring. Especially when it comes to the overt sentimentality displayed in the emotional call-back sequences.
Hong Kong action fans will undoubtedly enjoy Raging Fire, and likely already have the film on their must-watch list, but those less familiar with the genre will appreciate the films high octane action and choreographed stunt sequences, which range from gun battles to knife fights to car chases and plenty of throw-down martial arts street fighting. But regardless of your experience with the genre, Raging Fire will undoubtedly leave you entertained.