“Raging Fire” is a Hong Kong cops go rogue thriller, par for the formula course for writer-director Benny Chan, whose resume is filled with its close kin — “New Police Story,” “Heroic Duo,” “Gen-X Cops” and “Gen-Y Cops.”
But it pairs up the great Donnie Yen (“Rogue One,” “Ip Man” and “Mulan”) and Nicholas Tse (“Undercover vs. Undercover”) which leads to just the sort of brawling, chasing, face-off fireworks one hopes for in a Hong Kong thriller.
Yen plays a veteran detective, married with a baby on the way, whose life and career and waylaid by the mass slaughter of several colleagues at a drug raid that went wrong.
Tse plays the leader of the masked quintet that shot up rival gangs and lots of cops in that debacle. Turns out, Inspector Cheung Shung-bong and curly-haired Ngo have history. Once upon a time in Hong Kong, they were partners. But one rainy night on the amber-lit docs, it all went wrong.
Can the ex-cop outfight, outwit, outrun and outshoot the “ethical” cop who let him go to prison, way back when?
The story is a bit of a dawdle, but here’s what we came for — a couple of grand chases, including an epic one involving a motorbike and a car, and a handful of serious, mythic shootouts and brawls.
And those deliver in a big way. Chan, who died tragically young (58) after “Raging Fire” was completed, was no John Woo. But he pays homage to the master in a few scenes (a climatic duel in a church, alas, without white doves) and otherwise lets Yen and Tse and their stunt doubles (Yen is a well-preserved 57, but we all have our limits) and occasional sped-up motion do the rest.
The novel tortures, theatrical gunplay and desperate-intimate fights that are blurs of kicking, punching, shooting and writhing take you back to a time when Hong Kong action pics were all the rage because of their original, operatic take on archetypes and violence at its most personal.
MPA Rating: unrated, lots of bloody action violence
Cast: Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse
Credits: Scripted and directed by Benny Chan. A Well Go USA release.
Running time: 2:06