August 10, 2021 (NYC)–Yen Smolders in ‘Raging Fire’. Donnie Yen has clearly established himself as an international, bankable action star. He is not only a dynamic martial arts action star, but a highly watchable screen presence.
In Raging Fire, Benny Chan’s final Directorial work, Yen combines the elements of his persona as an action star and dramatic actor for a successful result. His dramatic engagement equals his action prowess, and these elements combine to make this film superior.
Shan (Donnie Yen) is a highly respected hardline cop with a long history of success on dangerous cases. However, his past unexpectedly comes back to haunt him when a sting operation is attacked by a mysterious group of criminals led by Ngo (Nicholas Tse), his former protégé, a talented former officer who had once respected and admired Shan. However, a terrible mistake three years prior landed him in prison, quickly turning the once rising star into a furious man with a grudge, and the will to destroy everyone who had wronged him—including his former mentor.
Many East Asian action films have a common theme showcasing the blurred line between police officer and villain. This film is no exception. While Yen is clearly the protagonist, Nicholas Tse is a sympathetic, albeit ruthless, adversary.
The film’s story is not necessarily original, but it is engaging. Both Yen and Nicholas Tse bring a deep gravitas to their performances that makes them sympathetic, despite the circumstances. Nicholas Tse’ performance is a strong counter-balance to Yen’s. Yen’s does not have as much depth and meaning without Tse.
This film is unusually deep for an action film, and perhaps, that is defining signature of a Benny Chan film. Here it is executed on a high level.
While the film has dramatic elements, there is no shortage of action. The knife fight choreography is about as exciting as you will see in any film. While I could write on about the dramatic undertones for paragraphs it is the final Yen-Tse showdown that puts this film among the top of the year’s martial arts action jewels. The fight choreography is sensational.
I am sentimental; so I couldn’t help but feel sad that Chan will not have the chance to see the international acclaim this film will likely garner. The closing credits feature behind the scenes clips of BennyChan in action, directing this one. He is clearly all-in.
The film is subtitled.
4 out of 5 Stars
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