By: John M Jerva
A lot of times I get screeners for movies that I unfortunately have to watch on my phone because my laptop was old and has since bought the farm and I can’t cast them to my TV. Even on the laptop which was slightly bigger, it still doesn’t do some films justice. Some movies were just made for a large screen and ever since I was fortunate enough to get a 75 inch television for my birthday/Christmas last year, many movies have taken on a whole new meaning.
Case in point, I give you defense exhibit A for a second time in the recent epic action spectacle Raging Fire which stars Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse. I already reviewed the film, which you can read here, but having seen it again on the big screen, I felt I needed to revisit it. Did I feel the same about it? No. It was even better.
The movie which hails from the late, great Benny Chan, who unfortunately passed away during the post process, Raging Fire is one of those rare action films that transcends to a whole new level. It’s an action movie that has simply become a classic as soon as it was released and it’ll be the measuring stick for action movies that come after it much like The Raid or John Wick has.
When I first viewed the movie for review, I was given the screener from Well Go USA and unfortunately I had to watch it on my iPhone because my old laptop wouldn’t play it and while I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I just felt that I needed to see it on the largest screen possible. Of course, it wasn’t playing in a theater anywhere near me as I live in New Hampshire so that was out of the question so my phone was the only choice as I wanted to see it and review it for my site.
Raging Fire has since debuted on the HI-YAH! streaming service as of this past Friday and I was finally able to see it on my TV. There’s nothing I can say about the experience that will do it justice through mere mortal words but I’m going to try as this was one of the most visceral viewing experiences ever for me.
The movie is Donnie Yen at his best and the action set pieces are second to none as there are multiple rapid fire, insane stunt filled firefights throughout and also signature Donnie Yen martial arts battles that defy gravity and bring a hyper-kinetic and ultra-brutal flair for genre fans. This is truly one of the best, if not the best, action movies of the year.
The plot is also rich and inviting which sees Yen’s character of police detective Cheung Chung-Bong dealing with a former comrade named Ngo played by Nicholas Tse who is extremely bitter after having to go to prison for going too far on the job. Ngo blames Bong of course and he is immediately put in the crosshairs of Ngo as he executes his ultimate plan of vengeance with his gang as they execute a series a revenge laced missions throughout the city. To make matters worse, Bong also has to deal with high level police corruption which makes it almost impossible for him to do his job.
Yen and Tse are at the top of their game here and their onscreen altercations are similar to Robert DeNiro and Al Pachino in the classic crime thriller Heat. It’s even more personal here however as these two have strong history together and it puts a real sense of foreboding to the dramatic aspects of the film. This is much more than an action film but the drama and adrenaline complement each other so well that genre fans get a lot more substance here than in a lot of action-thrillers.
The late Benny Chan was a true master at his craft and he has left us with so many essential action pics like Who Am I? and New Police Story with Jackie Chan and Invisible Target with Wu Jing. Even if the finished product wasn’t exactly stellar, Chan was one of those filmmakers that still elevated a movie with his involvement and made it better than it should have been. With Raging Fire, Chan has saved his best for last and this is his crowning achievement in a storied career. He definitely went out on top.
The action sequences are next level and they include a fierce shootout in the beginning, a breakneck car chase that involves Yen using martial arts while driving a speeding car and a second to none sequence where Yen runs a gauntlet of bad guys using his hands and feet and everything else he can get his hands on. Even in his fifties, Yen is one of the most exciting action stars to watch and this one on many sequence is worth the price of admission alone.
This is all topped off with a ferocious, guns blazing firefight that turns the city streets into a battlefield that channels the classic one in Heat. It is a cinematic spectacle of bullets, explosions, high caliber stunt work and bravado that is unforgiving in its execution. No one is safe in this blistering sequence and the viewer is immersed in the blood soaked chaos that ensues.
Yen and Tse square off in a climatic Battle Royal that takes the most out of each man. The scene is a feast for fight fans as Yen’s choreography is on point and the moves and execution are brutal and unflinching with some of his best action put on screen.
Usually I do the Essential Action section for older movies but with Raging Fire, I made an exception. Watching it on my TV was a cinematic treat. This is the truest example of an instant classic and now that it’s officially available on HI-YAH! I’m hopefully more people will see it. It’s the perfect merging of bone cracking action and deep layered drama. This is simply put, one hell of a movie at any level and one that will be admired for years to come. A true action master class.
Raging Fire is now available for free with a HI-YAH! subscription and will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 23rd from Well Go USA.