Triple threat Donnie Yen, who’s known for his skills as an actor, martial artist, and choreographer, stars as officer Cheung Sung-Bong, a veteran working on the front lines of Hong Kong’s Regional Crime Unit. When Cheung refuses to look the other way to benefit corrupt higher-ups, he’s immediately kicked off a drug bust he’s been working towards for weeks. But orders be damned: Cheung and his team go to the site anyways, but arrive late and, much to their horror, find the drugs and their colleagues massacred by a gang called The Viet Group.
The leader of these notorious criminals is Yau Kong-Ngo (Nicholas Tse), a former officer who worked under Cheung until an off-the-books rescue mission went badly wrong. Yau and a handful of other policemen were charged as accomplices in the murder of a suspect during a brutal interrogation.
Cheung refuses to rest until the gang is apprehended. Yiu (Ray Lui), one of his closest friends, was killed during the raid. Like a dog with a bone, Cheung sniffs out the trail for the missing drugs, for it will lead back to the Viet Group. He wants to avenge Yiu and the others, and he will do whatever he must to arrest all responsible parties. But what he doesn’t realize is that Yau is the puppet master behind the gang’s actions. When he does, he’ll have to make a choice: pursue justice or preserve what once was.
Benny Chan’s Raging Fire was his last completed project before he passed away in August 2020 of throat cancer. The film kicks off with a fragmented flashback of our protagonist, who is unable to stop a violent beating. The colour literally bleeds down the screen and the images are distorted and presented at odd angles. This immediately sets the stage, suggesting to viewers that the film’s storyline will be a result of unintended consequences that arise from the near past.
The piece is highly stylized in that it is reminiscent of the crime noir genre. Colours are dulled and darkened, the lighting purposefully reducing them down to sickly, eerie shades that mimic the various assaults that Cheung undergoes including mental turmoil, physical fights, and grief which seeps over into the present day.
One very cool aspect of this film is that Donnie Yen not only stars in it, but he also serves as the fight choreographer as well. Thanks to his background in martial artistry, the brawls are extremely believable and exciting to witness. Such intense moments, scattered through the 2-hour 6-minute runtime, keep audience engagement high as they draw from classic, gritty street brawls and are bloody, chaotic, and characterized by the sole need to survive longer than your attacker. The first proper fight sequence takes place at a closed-down plaza. The décor is similar to that of a haunted funhouse, a space that certainly adds another layer of sinisterness to the situation.
Both Cheung and Yau are plagued by their shared history. This parallelism establishes an emotional understanding between the faceless enemies and provides depth to each man and his motivations. The loyalty between blue bloods runs deep, but such loyalty can be dangerous if taken to the extreme.
“. . . this society doesn’t reward good men.” Even though Chan’s film is set in Hong Kong, the issues of police unaccountability, unchecked vengeance, and powerful men lying to protect themselves at another’s expense are relevant indeed. Raging Fire is an exciting actioner, but also an impactful drama due to the core of the plot revolving around memories, snap judgements and the aftermath they both cause.
Raging Fire was released on digital, Blu-ray™ and on November 23
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favourite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95