Raging Fire (Hong Kong, 2021)

The late Benny Chan’s swan song finally comes out and it is an amazing throwback to the glory days of Hong Kong action cinema.

Cheung Sung-Bong is one of the best in the Hong Kong police force, despite his unorthodox style. When he learns that criminal Wong Kwan is set to strike a drug deal with a Vietnamese gang, he is given the chance to help lead the mission. However, when he refuses to let a superior’s son off for beating up a fellow cop, Bong is taken off the case. The mission itself becomes an utter failure when a band of masked men kill both the gang and Wong Kwan then the cops, including Bong’s friend Yiu.

The masked men are a gang of former cops led by Ngo. Ngo has a major beef with Bong due to a kidnapping case five years ago that went awry when Ngo and his team killed a major lead. Bong’s testimony put them all in prison with one ending up dead. Ngo and his team hatch a plan to get even with Bong. However, when one of his own men goes too far, things could not go as planned and it is up to Bong to forget the past and stop his one-time protégé once and for all.

Before his untimely death in the summer of 2020, Hong Kong director Benny Chan had filmed his “swan song”, a cops and robbers tale with a top officer up against his former protégé, who thirsts for revenge and hatches a dangerous plan to achieve it. Chan’s illustrious career was three decades of exciting films such as A Moment of Romance, Who Am I?, Gen-X Cops and Gen-Y Cops; and New Police Story to name a few. With Hong Kong action cinema on life support, Chan breathed new life into it and it is all thanks to him because this is one of the best action films of 2021.

Donnie Yen leads the way as producer, star, and fight choreographer. At 58 years old, Yen still moves like he’s in his 20s. Once again, he plays a cop who is unorthodox but considered one of the best. As Bong, he may be unorthodox in some way, but he does have a moral compass. Of course, this shows that sometimes even the “good” cops still face consequences when he is forced out of the mission due to his inability and refusal to clear a superior’s son who clearly looks like trouble from the moment you see him. However, this soon sets up the series of events that make the film tops.

The other reason to see this besides seeing Donnie Yen doing what he does best is Nicholas Tse. Taking a four-year hiatus to work on other endeavors, Tse welcomely returns this time in only his second villain role, after 2006’s Shaolin. Tse has not lost a step when it comes to fighting as it is clear he had kept up with his training of martial arts. He plays Ngo as a psychopath hellbent on revenge and yet when it comes to his early scenes with Yen, shows some great chemistry with the veteran that clearly rubbed off since their collaboration in 2006’s Dragon Tiger Gate. However, the rivalry between Bong and Ngo grows so well in this that it goes from respect to bitterness. Tse goes a bit over the top at times, but it’s all part of having that thirst for revenge.

The action scenes are among the best of the year. From firepower to martial arts fights, Chan did an amazing job of bringing the good ol’ action brand back. We get to see some great gunfights, a sick car chase scene courtesy of Nicky Li, Donnie Yen nearly taking on an entire gang with his martial arts skills and using some MMA thrown in against the gang leader in Ben Lam (in a rematch from their 1997 hit Legend of the Wolf); and Tse just blows everyone away with his kicking skills as well as his knife-fighting techniques. The latter is something that would even make Marvel proud as they are lighting fast and reminiscent of Captain America: The Winter Soldier if it was in hyper mode. The finale between Yen and Tse is insane and one of the best final fights in the genre as they go no holds barred against each other.

Raging Fire couldn’t be a better swan song when it comes to a director’s final film. Benny Chan did what he made out to do: bring the Hong Kong action film out of life support as Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse churn out exciting performances in both the acting and action departments. If you miss the glory days of Hong Kong action cinema, then this is the film to see!

WFG RATING: A+

An Emperor Motion Pictures production in association with Tencent Pictures, Sil-Metropole Organisation Limited, and Super Bullet Productions. Director: Benny Chan. Producers: Donnie Yen, Jason Siu, and Benny Chan. Writers: Benny Chan, Ryan Ling, and Tim Tong. Cinematography: Fung Yuen-Man. Editing: Curran Pang.

Cast: Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Qin Lan, Ray Lui, Simon Yam, Ben Yuen, Patrick Tam, Ben Lam, Ken Low, Carlos Chan, Kenny Wong, Deep Ng, Jeana Ho, Angus Yeung, Bruce Tong, Henry Mak, Yu Kang.

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