Firestorm (2013)

firestorm

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Hong Kong legend Andy Lau stars and produces this action drama, which revolves around the consequences one police inspector faces when he resorts to going against everything he’s believed about being a policeman in the name of catching criminals.

A band of seasonal criminals have been responsible for a series of armored car heists throughout Hong Kong. The suspected leader is Cao Man, a respected businessman who is always let go when arrested or questioned due to insufficient evidence. For Inspector Lui Man-Chit, it has gotten to the point where he learns that ordinary police tactics are not enough to stop these criminals.

The mission soon becomes personal when his friend Tong offers to be an undercover for the gang, believed to be led by Jackal for an upcoming heist. However, when his cover is blown, Tong is killed along with his young disabled daughter Yiu Yiu. When Lui finally confronts Cao and resorts to doing the unthinkable, he soon learns that Cao was not responsible but rather an associate of Cao’s by the name of Paco. To stop Paco and his gang, Cao attempts to rely on a former schoolmate, To Shing-Bong, who was working for the gang, to infiltrate them as an undercover. Bong wants to clear his record for the sake of his girlfriend Bing. However, both men will soon learn that there are consequences for their actions, ones that prove to be deadly.

Director Alan Yuen is a seasoned screenwriter whose credits include Jackie Chan’s comeback to Hong Kong, New Police Story (2004) and the martial arts action film Shaolin (2011). For his directorial debut, Yuen channels the likes of fellow directors Dante Lam and Johnnie To to make an elaborate action thriller with a premise: the consequences a man must face when he attempts to change his present ways, no matter whether they are good intentions or not.

Andy Lau has the tendency to shine in any role and here proves no different. As Inspector Lui, he starts out going by the book in terms of following procedures in capturing criminals. However, he soon learns that proper protocol may not be enough to stop the gang involved in a series of armored car heists. It is when things get personal that Lui goes through a change and eventually, he must face the dire consequences his actions will cause.

Gordon Lam, who has worked with Lau on the comedy Dance of a Dream (2001) and the always great to watch Infernal Affairs (2002), plays Lui’s former schoolmate Bong, who like Lui, attempts a change in his life. Here, Bong tries to become a better man for his somewhat controlling girlfriend. The way his girlfriend, Bing, treats him, one can only wonder why Bong would consider stopping his criminal ways. Despite his erroneous nature, Bong has respect for Lui due to their past friendship. So when Bong offers to go undercover for Lui, it gives Bong a chance to change into a better man should the mission succeed.

Chin Ka-Lok, a veteran martial artist and stuntman legend, was in charge of the film’s action scenes. He has proven himself to be one of the best stunt coordinators in Hong Kong cinema today. Aside from the amazing firepower, Chin choreographed a hand-to-hand combat sequence between Lau and Lam that consists of jujitsu. And with good reason, the first scene of the film involves the child versions of their characters doing jujitsu and to show their dedication, the veteran actors trained with a jujitsu instructor for 6 weeks prior to shooting this scene.

However, the piece de resistance of the film is the final action sequence of the film: an epic, and yes, epic is duly noted here, shootout between the gang and virtually the entire Hong Kong police squad. Think of the scene as one you would expect in a war movie only set in modern day Hong Kong. The literally twenty-minute sequence consisted of scenes filmed on two real streets before the chaos on North Street. Unfortunately, the film wasn’t allowed to shut down North Street so using green screen and adding the visual effects, the epic shootout culminates at Kai Tak Airport, posing at North Street. Now, some of the VFX looks great but some could have looked better at times. However, altogether it does not pose a problem as this shootout with added explosive power is one of the best action scenes shot in modern action cinema.

Firestorm is one of the best modern day Hong Kong action films today. Alan Yuen truly has proven himself both as a writer and now, as a director. His premise revolving consequences works well thanks to the performances of Andy Lau and Gordon Lam. Plus, the 20-minute epic shootout must be seen to be believed as it is just mind-blowing.

WFG RATING: A-

Edko Films presents a Focus Films Ltd. production in association with Sil-Metropole Organisation Ltd. Director: Alan Yuen. Producers: Bill Kong, Andy Lau, Rosanna Ng, Chan Pui-Wah, and Dele Liu. Writer: Alan Yuen. Cinematography: Chan Chi-Ying. Editing: Kwong Chi-Leung and Ron Chan.

Cast: Andy Lau, Gordon Lam, Yao Chen, Hu Jun, Ray Liu, Michael Wong, Michael Tong, Sammy Hung, Terence Yin, Philip Keung, Jacqueline Chan, Oscar Leung.

 

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