“Firestorm” was released on DVD and Blu-ray yesterday.
In a city overrun with unstoppable crime and arrogant criminals, Police Inspector Liu (Andy Lau) is completely and utterly devoted to putting every thug behind bars and bringing justice to Hong Kong. Unfortunately for Liu, the most infamous criminal in Hong Kong named Cao Nam (Hu Jun), is his prime suspect for a recent string of robberies but the police have yet to gather any evidence that will hold up in court.
A thief named To Shing-bong (Gordon Lam) is fresh out of prison and eager to prove that he’s changed for his girlfriend Yin-bing (Yao Chen). Bong gets a job as a chef, but is soon suspected of being involved with Cao’s gang after he literally crashes into Inspector Liu during a shootout. Frustrated with the lack of results, Liu is pushed to his breaking point as the line between being a good cop and evolving into a ruthless criminal begins to blur.
“Firestorm” has all of the right ingredients of a fast paced and hard hitting action film. Andy Lau is typically only a part of film projects that are better than average the majority of the time. This film is also directed by Alan Yuen who helped write films like “New Police Story,” “Robin-B-Hood,” and “Shaolin.” Hong Kong knows how to make an entertaining police action film. So why does “Firestorm” feel so bland?
The action really sets fire to your adrenal gland and gets the blood flowing. Gunfights are loud, lengthy, and bloody, explosions are dangerous and volatile, and, most importantly, the choreographed fight sequences are intense and brutal. Andy Lau and Gordon Lam have the best fight in the film and it is absolutely relentless. Lau and Lam use a hard-hitting and MMA influenced kind of fighting style that echoes Wilson Yip’s “Flash Point.”
The film seems to come up short in every other aspect though. Inspector Liu is constantly reminded of how serious he is all the time. While Liu’s emotional distance is understandable, Andy Lau’s performance is almost completely devoid of any sort of sentiment. The most intriguing aspect of “Firestorm” is the side story of Tong Keung (Philip Keung); an undercover cop who is Liu’s mole. The heart of the film that triggers Liu’s inevitable breakdown resides in Tong’s storyline.
The method in which Cao’s friend and colleague named Paco (Ray Lui) enters the picture is completely unsatisfying. Identifying a source of the crime featured in the film is something “Firestorm” is reluctant to committing to. Liu and Bong are childhood friends, but that dynamic is never fully explored. So much time is spent on following the stereotypical as there’s nothing that sets “Firestorm” apart from similar Hong Kong police action films that were done better.
There is an incredible action sequence that makes up nearly the entire resolution of the film. However anything remotely enjoyable about it is ruined by an overabundance of lackluster computer generation. “Firestorm” plays with CGI throughout the film as it lends a hand to a rather extravagant car crash and can take credit for nearly every sequence involving flying pigeons. The ending is where it really stands out though. The final scene also leaves too much lying on the table. It’s as if “Firestorm” begins and ends with a very particular destructive act. The storylines of Inspector Liu and Bong end too melodramatically to be enjoyable.
With shades of “Drug War,” “Hard Boiled,” and “Infernal Affairs” at its core, it’s completely disappointing to report that “Firestorm” is a monumental dud as far as explosive action films are concerned. Intriguing plot devices and character traits are exchanged for the cliché. While the action of “Firestorm” is thrilling, the weak ending and inability to follow through with its potentially promising story leaves the film feeling inadequate.