22 January 2015 | totalovrdose
A Relentless Mix of Explosions and Bullets that Disappoints more often than it Entertains
I watched the action film Firestorm on a boiling hot day, hoping a movie about a massive storm on the verge of infringing upon Hong Kong might cool me down. Instead, by the end, I was just as tired, sweaty and unimpressed as I was when I inserted the DVD into my player. Out of all the Chinese movies I have recently had the pleasure of watching, not only is Firestorm the most disappointing, it is almost incredibly unique, in that by the conclusion of the feature, I was bored to death - by the sheer wealth of explosions.
Police Inspector Lui (portrayed by the always entertaining Mr. Andy Lau) is a brilliant member of the Hong Kong police, who unfortunately finds himself in the middle of an escalating horrific situation. Not only is he trapped in the middle of a deranged action film, he has to contend with two forces: a storm, that threatens to turn Hong Kong inside out, and a crew of criminals hard pressed to do the same, who are led by the ruthless Cao (Jun Hu).
At the same time, Shing (Gordon Lam), a convict recently released from prison, is trying his best to be the man his beautiful girlfriend Yin (Yao Chen) has been waiting patiently for. With a direct connection to Cao's crew, it's no surprise that Lui and he eventually cross paths, as the police inspector comes to realize that usual police tactics will inevitably fail to bring justice.
Cao's crew, who at first glance appear to be thieves, are painted as murderous psychopaths. There is little background regarding their motives, and their unrelenting slaughter of civilians feels more like a slasher film with guns rather than an in-depth police drama. This same lacking characterization applies to every individual in the movie, including Lui. Although Mr. Lau has proved time and time again he is a brilliant actor, his character is eventually also pulled into the relentless shoot 'em up, spending more than half the film on the ground after being shot, punched, or blown away by one of many explosions that occupies the plot.
Although horrific tragedies do take place, which lead Lui down a questionable path, even in these moments, the audience, despite acknowledging the horror of the event, cannot become emotionally involved, because by the end, the characters remain a collection of total strangers. What's more, Lui's actions, which begin to blur the line between good and rogue have little affect on his character, who doesn't seem to care that the rules he swore to obey might very well be thrown out the window.
In the midst of the insanity, there are a couple of beautiful moments that show how family is not just those related by blood, but these are so fleeting, they are barely rememberable. Furthermore, although there are several great fight scenes, alongside a number of explosions that continuously look superb, these blur together overtime, and by the trigger happy conclusion, I was left shaking my head in disbelief, wondering what the point to any of it was. A scene involving white doves is surely a tribute to revered action director John Woo, however the fact there's several dozen of them is outrageously over the top, which clearly reflects the entirety of this production.
The strongest moments in the film often involve the arguments between Shing and Yin, where emotions run high and heartbreak and violence is potentially just a moment away. But the film fails to capitalize on the talents of the actors portraying these characters, or this sub-plot, that infrequently appears, and if the creator's had spent less time on the action, and attempted to stretch the back-story of each of the leads, this would have made for a far more effective story. By the end, there's a storm alright - it's just not the one we were promised.