You’ve heard the buzz about “Raging Fire” as a dark cop thriller in the vein of “Sha Po Lang” and “Flash Point”, and lovers of Hong Kong action movies will find plenty to be absolutely thrilled to bits about in Donnie Yen’s latest vehicle (which releases today in the USA) as a determined law enforcement official at war with allies from his past.
For many, though, “Raging Fire” will be a bittersweet affair as the final film of legendary action filmmaker, Benny Chan.
If the title “Raging Fire” gives you an idea of the film itself, then its content can be experienced as a Benny Chan movie striking bars and playing those action-packed high notes like a symphony orchestra.
Donnie Yen portrays Hong Kong cop Bong Cheung, with Nicholas Tse playing his old friend, turned sworn enemy, Yau Kong-Ngo.
Qin Lan also appears as Cheung’s wife Anna Lam, with Ray Lui as Hong Kong police chief Yiu Yeuk-sing and Ben Yuen playing fellow police official Sze-to Kit.
Henry Mak, Yu Kang, German Cheung, and Tony Wu play Ngo’s associates Chiu Chi-keung, Mok Yik-chuen, Chu Yuk-ming, and Law Kim-wah, while Chris Collins
plays Sargeant Rock USMC. Hong Kong screen legend, Simon Yam also pops in for a cameo as a police official.
Bong Cheung has spent years as a dedicated, stalwart officer in the Hong Kong Police Department, but his time on the force has come with personal heartache.
Years earlier, a group of Cheung’s fellow officers, led by Yau Kong-Ngo, were charged with excessive force in a police brutality case. Though it destroyed him to do so, Cheung’s dedication to the law led him to testify against his friends in court, leading to Ngo and his fellow officer’s incarceration.
Following the release of Ngo and his associates from prison, Cheung hopes they, along with himself and Ngo, can make a fresh start. However, as Cheung dives into a case that should’ve been a simple sting operation only for a rival gang to interfere, it gradually becomes clear from Ngo’s connection to it that the grudge he holds against his old friend is anything but healed.
It feels like it’s been ages since Hong Kong has been photographed as gorgeously as it is in “Raging Fire”, and the film’s cinematography paradoxically captures the underlying themes of the movie as a police action drama.
Pristine, shiny, and pure on the surface, but with a dark side lurking beneath, Cheung fights for the best of what an honest defender of the law can be, and Ngo and his friends bitter, vengeful, and having lost all faith in the system they upheld.
Raging Fire: Driven by Pulse-Pounding Action
The greatest villains are the heroes of their own stories, and Nicholas Tse is a dark and tragic one as Ngo. For a movie as driven by pulse-pounding action as “Raging Fire” is (we’ll get to that in a second), the courtroom scene of Cheung testifying against his fellow officers is gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking for him and the film’s emotional core.
Benny Chan’s Final Movie comes out of Hong Kong’s Golden Age
Ngo’s graduation from bad cop to terrorist marks the point of no return once he gets out, and anyone who came in hungry for Benny Chan’s final fireworks show can gleefully prepare to buckle up.
Chan’s final movie is a whirlwind of wild, stunt-filled, and powerful action that could’ve come right out of Hong Kong’s 80’s and 90’s golden age.
Kung Fu, Gun Fu & Car Chases Galore
Powered by Cheung’s inner turmoil of wanting to reconcile with an old colleague and knowing it isn’t meant to be, the movie’s car chases, kung fu, and gun fu blast pandemic-era depression away as the city itself becomes a war zone.
Exciting Stunt Work
Stunts of the seemingly death-defying variety are the bread and butter of “Raging Fire”, not the least of which is a battle of fists in a high speed motorcycle-car chase that’s right alongside “The Villainess” and “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” in vehicular hand-to-hand battles.
“Raging Fire” hedges a bit more towards polish than fecundity on the pure martial arts side of things, but it never fails to deliver. Innovation is the name of the game in any Donnie Yen movie, and Cheung holding off an angry slum mob single-handedly with a kevlar vest wrapped around one hand has that written all over it.
Fans of “Sha Po Lang” & “Flash Point” will Love this!
The general Hong Kong cop movie comparisons between the two aside, the parallels Donnie himself has drawn to “Sha Po Lang” and “Flash Point” are a cheque ready to be cashed in Cheung and Yau’s final confrontation.
Emotional Highs & Sighs Make this the Best Martial-Arts Action Movie of the Year
Coming after a movie full of bombings, shootings, and hostage situations, it’s the year’s best martial-arts battle royale, and a tear-jerker in its own right – to be followed immediately after by more gut-wrenching emotions and tears to be shed in the film’s Benny Chan tribute over the end-credits.
“Raging Fire” is like an action movie a generation or two removed from its time, and for all of you who are still transfixed in love with the golden 80’s age of Hong Kong action cinema, you’ll be glad to know that this is a blast from the past in all the best ways.
As an appetizer for Donnie Yen saddling up with the extremely stacked “John Wick: Chapter 4” next year, the alarm of “Raging Fire” hits a five with ease, delivering a final, emotional rollercoaster of action from one of the best in the business with supreme and heartfelt reverence.
- “Please tell me, who is so lawless, so heartless, so cold-blooded that arresting them would bring them peace? Who do you think?” – Cheung.
- “No idea. Does someone have a grudge against you?” – Ngo (in reply.)
- Benny Chan previously directed the TV series’ “The Kung Fu Master” and “Fist of Fury”, a remake of the Bruce Lee movie of the same name, which also starred Donnie as Chen Zhen.
- Donnie Yen designed the action sequences of the film alongside Kenji Tanigaki, Huen Chiu-ku, Kang Yu, and Chris Collins. Chris co-starred with Donnie in “Ip Man 4: The Finale” – check out our in-depth interview with Chris here.
- Benny Chan co-directed 1998’s “Who Am I?” with Jackie Chan.