Tenacious super cop Bong will stop at nothing to apprehend Ngo, a former protege hell-bent on a ruthless rampage of revenge.
As the stakes escalate, a monumental shitstorm of blood and bullets rips through the heart of Hong Kong.
Director Benny Chan died of late-stage nasopharyngeal cancer just as this truly epic action masterpiece finished shooting. A legendary filmmaker, who commanded huge respect and affection from his peers and fans, Raging Fire stands as a thrilling testament to the skill and craft he brought to the art of movie mayhem.
The opening action sequence of Raging Fire acts as a taster menu for the bulging buffet of mega violence to come. Close range bullet hits, impossibly painful beatings, exquisite martial arts choreography, and an ebb and flow approach to violence that renders every blow and ballistic volley organically and wincingly tactile.
As the film barrels along to its devastating climax it unleashes set piece after set piece of expediently intensifying madness. Breathtaking car chases, seriously gory murders, outlandish shootouts, and quicksilver hand-to-hand encounters. All of them are planned with intricate precision and executed seamlessly by the finest stunt team working anywhere in the world today. One case in point being a hideously graphic hit and run incident that resets the bar in automobile atrocities.
At one point Chan scoops up the gauntlet thrown down by Michael Mann’s Heat and uses it to slap the audience in the chops until their collective jaws drop. Replete with giant black shoulder bags and shades this rush hour bullet festival goes far beyond pastiche and one-upmanship as it blazes a fresh trail of iconic identity.
Yuen Man Fung, of Operation Red Sea fame, delivers cinematography that is class personified. Stunningly expansive at times, brutishly intimate at others. Much like a photographer taking precise light readings during a massacre, it is ludicrously fastidious in its technical composition.
Any true action fan knows that editing can make or break a movie. Too many quick cuts and slow-motion shots can starve it of impetus and engagement. Too sedate and the results are replicated. Raging Fire boasts one of the most accomplished editors around in Curran Pang,
Pang was responsible for cultivating the infamously labyrinthine Infernal Affairs. A task many argue he performed better than Hollywood’s most celebrated editor Thelma Schoonmaker in Scorsese’s remake as The Departed. He has been assembling top-tier action spectacles and curating sweeping narratives for over two decades. And quite frankly, it shows.
Once again Chan calls on Parisian-born maestro Nicolas Errèra, The White Storm, to score one of his pictures with predictably superb results. By turns thunderous and reflective this is the aural landscaping of a musician in perfect symbiosis with his director’s vision.
The chemistry between Donnie Yen’s stoically heroic Bong and Nicholas Tse’s arrogantly machiavellian sociopath Ngo is key to the film narrative progression. Thematically speaking, Raging Fire has a deceptively generic framework on which it drapes its beefy and bloody beat-downs. However, there is a deliciously subtle subtext concerning the nefarious manipulation of autonomy.
Ngo doesn’t just want to exact mindless retribution nor is he seeking any form of recompense or redemption. His twisted brand of catharsis demands his revenge be served slow-cooked and drizzled with ice-cold irony. If anything, he is seeking a perverted form of personal martyrdom.
In the scenes these two main protagonists share the actors brachiate between frustrated fury and self-assured bravado with a passionate commitment that contextualises the film’s spectacular ferocity.
Departing at just 58 years old, Benny Chan changed the face of action cinema and it is tragic we will never see another beautifully conducted symphony of carnage from his ever-vibrant mind.
However, his parting gift to genre fans is a towering behemoth of escapist destruction. One that effortlessly destroys virtually all other action flicks in terms of scale, ambition, off-the-charts violence, and not least technical purity.
Raging Fire showcases what transpires when a director at the height of his powers assembles a crack team of like-minded professionals with the sole intention of entertaining the audience.
Genre fans and action junkies everywhere are going to adore it.
Canadian Premiere Fantasia Film Festival 2021 Cinéma Impérial
Crime, Action Thriller, Martial Arts | China, Hong Kong | 2021 | 126 mins | USA Release Date, Aug 13th, 2021 | Well Go USA Entertainment | Dir. Benny Chan| Cast: Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Qin Lan