If Heat and The Count of Monte Cristo came together and formed the perfect little hybrid cinematic gem, it would be Raging Fire. This is beautifully realized tale of revenge and honor with some of the best action scenes to hit the big screen in years.
Bong (Donnie Yen, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) is a respected police officer whose fatal professional flaw is his strict adherence to the rules. Even if turning the other way or dismissing an offense from a high-ranking official’s son would move him up the ranks, Bong won’t do it. He’s duty bound to stay firmly on the straight and narrow path.
Years ago, that mindset led to a major fallout with his friendly rival, Ngo (Nicholas Tse), a rising star in the department. Bong and Ngo responded to a delicate ransom situation that goes awry. In the aftermath, Ngo and his squad face serious repercussions that could be dismissed. If only Bong respects the thin blue line. Bong’s choice ultimately sends Ngo and his men on a path of vengeance.
The script by Chan, Ryan Wai-Chun Ling and Yaoliang Tang is far more layered than the typical action film. There’s depth to the characters and their actions that unfold as the film continues to play out. Occasionally the subtitle text has some weird errors or hopefully police officers aren’t really asking if someone is “farting” with them.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film is how it raises the question of who exactly are the bad guys. Ngo and his men do some awful things with seemingly little regard for who gets caught in the crossfire. Yet from a certain perspective it’s hard not to justify their actions.
Tse has an effortless swagger like Robert De Niro’s character in Heat. Normally in crime dramas the bad guys might have a little flash and charisma, but ultimately you’re rooting for the good guys to take them down. Like Heat, the bad guys have this cool edge that makes them easy to root for as they outsmart Bong and his men.
That’s why it was key to cast a likable and revered actor like Yen to play opposite Tse. Yen is the film’s steadying, reliable presence. Bong has seen too much and experienced enough lost to have a sense of weariness, but he possesses an unyielding dedication to get the job done. Yen keeps Bong grounded so he’s not perfect allowing him to have some doubts and question his decisions.
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This marked the final film for director/co-writer Benny Chan, who succumbed to cancer on Aug. 23, 2020. Raging Fire is about as solid a final film as most directors could hope. The shame is he wasn’t able to receive the accolades he rightfully deserved.
As solid and engaging as the plot is, Raging Fire further excels with the action scenes. Yen handled some of the fight choreography along with action directors Kenji Tanigaki and Dede Ku leading to some spectacular sequences. The fights are crisp with easy to follow action regardless if it’s a martial arts battle, shoot out or high speed chase.
Chan properly builds the action scenes so the next big scene is better than the last. One of the standout scenes is the high speed chase where Bong and his officers close in on Tse and his men.
The final action sequence is an epic homage to Heat with a street shootout that’s only missing Tse’s men yelling “clear” after wiping out a swarm of enclosing police. That leads to a tremendously violent and well imagined showdown with Bong and Tse.
Raging Fire delivers on every front with extremely high level action scenes and equally quality performances.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: Well Go USA