First of all, let’s get this out of the way: all the flaws that historically pervade Hong Kong’s action films – the stock female characters who are either moping at home or held hostage; the unlimited-ammo guns that everyone owns; the overuse of dramatic musical scores to convey drama – are present in Firestorm, the big budget cops-and-robbers actioner produced by Edko’s Bill Kong and Andy Lau. But Firestorm’s flaws can be excused because it offers something that has never been seen before in Hong Kong cinema – complete and utter destruction of Central, in broad daylight.
In a climax that lasts nearly half an hour, Firestorm’s cops and robbers fight using guns, grenades and cars in an area which stretches from Caine Road near the Mid-Levels all the way down to Pedder Street in the heart of Central. Sure, nearly all of the explosions – one of which blows a hole in the ground, revealing the Central MTR station underneath – and major car crashes are computer generated, but it is still a visual spectacle the likes of which our city’s cinema has never seen.
The plot itself starts like every other Hong Kong action film – a team of do-gooder cops is on the hunt for a group of criminals. What gives Firestorm’s script a tinge of freshness is that Lau’s character, Inspector Lui, is so obsessed with taking down the bad guys that he begins to bend more and more rules as the film progresses, eventually crossing moral lines completely by the third act. Complicating matters is an ex-con named To, played by Gordon Lam, who aligns himself with the robbers and Lui.
Lam, a veteran actor who’s made a living out of giving strong supporting performances, gives To the required intensity and layers. In all, Firestorm features strong performances all around. But, really, no-one is going to see this for the acting – the action scenes alone make this ride. Darren Jung
Dir Alan Yuen Category I, 110 minutes, opens on Thu Dec 19