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September 22, 2014


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Feng Bao
Alan Yuen - 2013
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Firestorm may well be symbolic of not only what's has happened with the Hong Kong action movie, but Hong Kong itself - it's more sophisticated and more expensive, but not necessarily better than what was available in the past. It's obvious that Alan Yuen wants to take the police thriller to a couple of places were it's never been, both in terms of characters and set pieces, yet nothing in these efforts is more than surface deep.

Yuen seems to want to make a vague comment on the randomness of life, done with vehicle fatalities that come near the beginning and end of the film. In the first instance, a car driven by an ex-con, Tong, slams into cop Andy Lau's car while Lau is in the midst of chasing after crooks involved in an armored truck heist. Tong had nothing to do with the heist but is at the wrong place, wrong time, and his forced to act as a mole on behalf of Lau, who is trying to bust a major crime boss. The heist itself is one of Yuen's attempts to up the action film ante by having the armored truck picked up by a large construction crane, and lifted off the road.

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Tong also has a young daughter. There are explanations, but I am going to assume that as the daughter only communicates by screaming, that she is meant be Yuen's idea of an autistic child. I don't know whether Tong is suppose to be a loving, but ignorant, father, or if Yuen really didn't think things through, but slapping a screaming autistic child probably isn't the best choice for trying to calm her down.

Lau plays a detective Liu, in charge of a squad that is trying to bust gangster kingpin Cao. Liu is so intent on making his case that he does what he can to incriminate Cao, only to to find himself compromised by hidden surveillance camera footage. Electronic surveillance is all over the place, used by cops and criminals alike. In one scene, Tong is about to participate in a robbery, but stops to make a call to make sure his daughter is looked after by an "auntie". Actually, the call is to Liu. The leader of this criminal gang checks to make sure about whom is receiving the call. Liu and company anticipate this kind of follow-up with a woman receiving the verification call by Tong's partner in crime.

Firestorm was shown theatrically in 3D in Chinese theaters. The final scene, especially, would be set up to wow the audience. Cars fly and crash, guns are blazing, and there are lots of fiery explosions. As Liu, Andy Lau takes one beating after another, including a chase that concludes with his falling from a ten story building into the kitchen of a little old lady. The "Making of . . . " supplements are interesting in showing how the film was produced. For all the flash and noise, Firestorm manages to be forgotten as soon as it is over.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 22, 2014 07:52 AM