A Feast of Fury for Firepower Lovers
Non-stop action and an endless supply of explosions greet you from go in the Opening Gala offering of the London East Asia Film Festival, Raging Fire.
It’s worth noting that many cars, panes of glass and a piano were injured during the making of this film. If you’re after an adrenaline rush, come on down. It’s already out in the US (see Prime) and releases in the UK this November.
A seasoned cop, Bong as he’s known, and his team are chasing the same criminal they’ve been after for years. On a mission in which he’s side-lined, the culprit, his gang and 8 police officers are all killed on scene. Bong realises that they’re not the only ones after this guy. He eventually discovers – without hard evidence – that his former protégé-gone-wrong is part of the picture.
Director Benny Chan is known for a plethora of offerings including Big Bullet (Prime) where he won best director. Over his years in the industry he directed a selection of Jackie Chan movies including Shaolin (Netflix UK; Prime US) and New Police Story (Prime) both of which also star Nicholas Tse. As his first feature length film, he led A Moment of Romance (Direct TV), showing as part of the festival on Sunday, Oct 24th. Clearly, Chan has spent a career perfecting the art of the genre. Sadly, he passed recently at the age of 58 but leaves a legacy of over 25 works.
Martial artist and veteran actor Donnie Yen stars as the righteous Cheung Sung-Bong. At the age of 58 he’s got many colourful belts and expertise in 15 fighting styles from wrestling and kick boxing to Hung Ga and Muay Thai. He’s one of Hong Kong’s top action stars and credited with bringing mixed martial arts mainstream via choreographing it into his movies from the early 2000’s. He’s been in over 70 movies including the Ip Man series (Netflix) and John Wick: Chapter Four, releasing in 2022.
41-year old Nicholas Tse plays counterpart Ngo, Yau Kong-Ngo, a recently released criminal and former junior to Bong. Another well-known face of Chinese cinema, Tse has appeared alongside Jackie Chan in number of martial arts dramas including Robin-B-Hood (Vudu), also directed by Benny Chan. Additionally, he’s worked with Yen on Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Sword of Destiny (Netflix) and Bodyguards and Assassins (Tubi).
There are tons of characters but you won’t be able to take your eyes off these two as they duke it out in scenes both present and past. I’m pointing out their ages as they carry the bulk of the fight scenes. For what sounds like ‘getting on’ in dog or football years, refreshingly, there is no ageism here. I’m suddenly picturing them both at home eating nothing but chicken breast a la What Happened to Mr. Cha to remain in such amazing, fighting-fit shape.
Apart from the cinematography and choreography, there’s a story here about loyalty, comradeship and being the purveyor of either legal or personal justice. And the rules – some are okay to be broken and some are not. What’s too far and what’s just far enough? It seems like in police work – in Director Chan’s view – the lines may blur a bit. Just as they do in life.
As in many action movies, the sound was super loud and sometimes over-emotive, forcing you to recognise the frustration or sadness and then quickly move on to more punching. But with all that adrenaline in the room, I suppose subtlety would be a waste. Luckily there are some funny and sweet moments that cut through, providing an occasional breather.
Notably our helm trio are in love with the style of work. I wondered quite a bit about who’s fire was raging. As characters, both Bong and ex-teammate Ngo have equal amounts of determination and fury. They certainly spark off and demonstrate a history of competitiveness with each other. And both have strong beliefs and reasons to fight. But maybe some of the fire belongs to Director Chan as well, who has a real passion for the category.
The film closes with a lovely tribute to Director Chan. Led by wonderful ‘making of’ moments it gives away a few stunt secrets, demonstrating the exuberance and joy with which the piece was made.
Full of MMA action, surprising moments and explosive firepower – both in volume and variety – it’s a smouldering feast for the action lover. Never a dull moment and many creative action scenes, catch it with your eyes wide open.
Opening Gala for the 2021 London East Asia Film Festival, Raging Fire will reach cinemas in the UK from November 11. The film festival runs from Oct 21-31. For more screening information on fantastic films from across East Asia, see the website here. Click here to see more movies reviewed as part of this festival.
Verdict - 8/10