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Movie Reviews

[Fantasia ’21] ‘Raging Fire’ review: A throwback to the heyday of Hong Kong action cinema

Kinda goofy and very fun.

Raging Fire promises high octane action. It is the last film of director Benny Chan who worked with Jackie Chan many times. It stars Donnie Yen who is one of the most decorated action heroes in Hong Kong and will be appearing in John Wick 4. The plot involves revenge and gun fu. The premise is a familiar one to fans of these types of movies. A disgraced former cop is out to get vengeance. He does not care who gets in his way or what he has to do to get to them. Before all is said and done, there will be plenty of bloodshed and destruction. 

Raging Fire is at its best when it goes all in on the excitement. An early battle in a mall is filled with amazing fight sequences and an awesome firefight. The is includes rapid cuts and a camera view that is akin to a first person shooter video game. And it is all just a taste of what is to come.

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There are also some impressive hand-to-hand combat sequences. Yen is an accomplished martial artist while co star Nicholas Tse trained under Jackie Chan. The final battle between the two is fun to watch. It takes place in what looks to be an abandoned church and is fast paced, vicious, and kind of funny. But the real stand out is a battle between the two that also involves a moving motorcycle. 

The actual story does what it is supposed to. Shan (Yen) is a righteous cop who is too good to be true. He always does things the right way, but he also does them his way. Predictably, this has led to some run-ins with the higher ups. Shan is not an especially deep character, and Raging Fire gives the audience all they need to know.

Ngo (Tse) is the perfect bad guy. Along with being skilled at guns and melee combat, he is also a little unhinged. In his pursuit for vengeance, he is unafraid to sacrifice the lives of others. The character can be over the top at times, but Raging Fire is the type of movie that calls for it.

[Fantasia '21] 'Raging Fire' review: A throwback to the heyday of Hong Kong action cinemaWhen the plot tries to be more serious, it becomes comical. There are flashbacks that are meant to add depth to the characters but instead just add to the run time. (In a hilarious moment, Shan reflects on a friend who was murdered at the mall. The two have spent about three minutes together on screen at this point and his memories comprise a few seconds from those moments.) There are also some random slow motion shots that are completely out of place.

There are also some parts that are just unnecessary. Shan’s wife is pregnant in a subplot that ends up going nowhere – even after she ends up in the hospital. There is an entire scene that seems to be included just to show how much Shan’s co-workers respect him even though Raging Fire has already done an excellent job of showing that. Strangest of all is an entire hostage situation that is lifted right out of a Saw movie. 

None of this takes away from the entertainment that Raging Fire provides, however. If anything, they add to the fun, serving as a cool down between the big action pieces. The stunts and action scenes are incredible and are sure to be redone in American flicks. The film is a throwback to a time when Hong Kong action cinema was the standard-bearer for the genre.

The Fantasia Film Festival takes place in person and online from August 5 – August 25

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