an innate laissez-faire attitude towards government, Hong Kong has always
trusted its police. That is why there was such profound disappointment when the
cops broke up recent pro-democracy demonstrations, as per their instructions
from above. That might seem ironic for those raised on a steady diet of Johnnie
To-John Woo rogue cop thrillers, but the general populace has always been
willing to forgive a little corner-cutting to bring down the baddest baddies. However,
Inspector Liu Ming-chit will take off-the-books justice to a whole new level of
recklessness in Alan Yuen’s Firestorm 3D (trailer here), which screens
during the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival.
as an art dealer, Mainland armed robber Cao Nan and his gang have been running
circles around the police in general and the by-the-book Inspector Liu in
particular. They enjoy a challenge and don’t give a toss how many bystanders
are killed in the process. When Liu’s old high school judo partner To
Shing-bong is released from prison, he rejoins Cao Nan’s outfit, while
pretending to keep on the straight and narrow for the benefit of his loyal
girlfriend, Law Yin-bing.
is a cool, frosty cat, but the dead bodies start to push him towards the edge
of legality. When a shocking atrocity hits home, the Inspector finally takes a
running leap into the dark side. Of course, that leads to complications,
culminating in a massively explosive shootout right smack in the middle of Hong
Kong’s financial district that would even leave Michael Bay dazed and
though there is no sex or nudity and little foul language to speak of, Firestorm is all about sheer excess. Whether
it is the amped up action sequences, the over-the-top 3D effects, or the
shameless emotional manipulation, writer-director Yuen has no patience for half
measures. The last half hour or so is simply a jaw-dropper of an action set
piece, spectacularly choreographed by Chin Kar-lok.
you have a problem with entire city blocks blowing up than Firestorm is not for you. Nevertheless, Andy Lau’s work proves
there really is such a thing as an action performance. He broods so hard you
can see the steam coming out of his ears, elevating Liu to the level of classical
tragedy. On the flip side, Hu Jun is magnetically steely as the uncannily
unruffled Cao Nan.
Chen manages to scratch a few decent scenes as the thankless Law, which is
saying something, considering how testosterone-driven the film is. Unfortunately,
second-lead Gordon Lam’s macho slow burn as To suffers in comparison with Lau
and Hu. However, the film is peppered with terrific supporting turns, including
Michael Wong hamming it up as Liu’s boss and young Jacqueline Chan demolishing
viewers’ heartstrings as his disadvantaged god-daughter.
There is no room for subtlety or hand-wringing
in Firestorm. It is simply too busy
firing RPGs into crowded city streets. Given the magnitude of it all, you
wouldn’t think this is Yuen’s first solo turn in the director’s chair, but the
screenwriter comes strong and lays it down with authority. Recommended for
action fans who like a movie to shake them by the lapels, Firestorm screens tomorrow (7/9) at the Walter Reade Theater, as
part of this year’s NYAFF.
Labels: Andy Lau, Cop Movies, Hong Kong Cinema, Hu Jun, NYAFF '14, Yao Chen