To be honest, it took me a few attempts and weeks, before the film was able to keep my undivided attention to get pass the 20 minute mark. It is rare that I encounter a film that bores more in the beginning. Still, once the film hits the quarter time interval, it begins to discern into a tad more interesting. There is really nothing wrong with the film on a technical level and probably a joy to endure with a decent sound system. However, the film fails by a dragging storying that moves toward routine and boredom than excitement. Still one must be impressed with the numerous smash-buckling action sequences by Chin Kar Lok, especially in the fabulously staged form of the restaurant scene which never fails on the brutality scale. Credit must also be given to Lam for trying to develop almost everyone of its film characters, but at the end of the day, it just seems too much. It is a rare case for Hong Kong action cinema where it is character driven and unfortunately it is also the biggest flaw in the film.
Leon Lai attempts to don a Aaron Kwok style career intervention, but fails to show enough emotions to cultivate what is a very complicated role. Unfortunately, Lai is no Kwok and his inability to shred off his wooden face effectively disables any heartfelt emotions from the audience. Contrastingly, Richie Ren shines in his role as the corrupt cop. Ren chews his scenes with a menacing confidence and in the end; he is far more human than the wooden figure of Leon. While not exactly award winning, but a nomination or some sort is not out of question. As usual Liu Kai Chi does a fine turn in yet another supporting cop role and the scene where he encounters Leon about his possible involvement of the prostitute death is a brain explosion of a joy to watch. The much loved Vivian Hsu makes a flower glass appearance and Michelle Yip adds some female testosterone to the proceedings.
All in all, Fire of Conscience is a fine example when a film works well on a technical level, beautiful to look at and even wonderful to watch, but falls to the ground when it comes to uneven pacing and slow storytelling. It is a shame as Dante Lam's Beast Stalker looks like a return to form and while Fire of Conscience isn't a bad film by all means, with the cast and crew on hand, one just expected a little more. A distant film that entertains in parts...(Neo 2010)
I rate it 6.5/10