Firestorm 風暴 (2013) – Hong Kong / China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 10th January 2013

Directed by: Alan Yuen
Starring: Andy Lau, Yao Chen, Gordon Lam, Hu Jun, Ray Lui

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Firstly, Alan Yuen’s crime action blockbuster “Firestorm” is no match to the far superior “The White Storm”. Secondly, Gordon Lam is by far a better actor than Andy Lau and justifiably steals the show in his first true leading role. Finally, this is a good film, but suffers with an obvious padded up ending to satisfy Mainland censorship. The good news is that at the very least Mainland Chinese actor Hu Jun plays the mastermind villain. Still, there are a lot of fine points that stops “Firestorm” from taking the winter blockbuster mantle.

The film clearly works to a certain degree and even evokes moments of a far better trilogy of films in “Infernal Affairs”, but as the audience walks out of the cinema, it all feels rather empty. “Firestorm” is an entertaining film, with some fine performances, steady direction and even an adequate script. However, the audience pretty much stops emoting after mourning the death of the father and daughter, despite reaching an emotional high. Still, there is a lot to like about this film, even if it is not entirely successful.

Andy Lau headlines another blockbuster role following his walk of shame in the atrocious “The Switch”. Lau redeems himself adequately in this role and there are moments that he even manages to pull off a difficult and complicated character that is on the verge of crossing both sides of the law. Not unlike his role in Infernal Affairs, Lau almost corrupted himself totally after a string of events that changed him, it is notable how in an earlier scene, Lau is a man of principle to the point of putting rubbish in the bin by getting out of the car in the middle of an operation. How he was not seen by the potential crooks is entirely another plot hole issue. However, the real star of the show is Gordon Lam who has been waiting on the wings with plenty of quality supporting roles throughout the past decade. “Firestorm” is simply a vehicle for Lam to shine through as he owns the screen with his dogged determination for love, robbery and money. In fact, it is no understatement to claim that Lam is the key for holding all the piece of “Firestorm” together. Hu Jun appears for a zillion Hong Kong movies of the year and refreshingly as the bad guy. Hu Jun have all the hallmarks of a classic villain, sly smile and seemingly deep outlook. His war of words with Lau is always fun to watch.

All in all, “Firestorm” is easily one of the better films of 2013 Hong Kong cinema, but it is unfortunate that it will not reach the heights achieved by Benny Chan’s career highlight in “The White Storm”. Long time script writer and first time director Alan Yuen does well in his debut and handled the action scenes in the most dramatic flair right in the heart of Hong Kong, Central. It is admirable that despite all the Chinese investment, Yuen still manages to shot the film mostly in Hong Kong, giving the local feeling a much needed boost. There is a lot to be pleased about “Firestorm” and even manages to inflict plenty of emotions at crucial moments. However, by the end of the film, the audiences are not really concerned about the characters’ fate and whereas in “The White Storm”, we are so emotionally engaged that we can’t stop caring even after the credit rolls. This is a good film, just not great and that’s a shame. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 7.5/10

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