Review: ‘Raging Fire,’ starring Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse

September 1, 2021

by Carla Hay

Donnie Yen in “Raging Fire” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“Raging Fire”

Directed by Benny Chan

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the action flick “Raging Fire” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the middle-class, wealthy and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: An upstanding cop battles against a former protégé, who leads a gang that works for a corrupt and wealthy businessman. 

Culture Audience: “Raging Fire” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Donnie Yen, the late filmmaker Benny Chan and Chinese action flicks that have predictable plots.

Nicholas Tse in “Raging Fire” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“Raging Fire” delivers everything you might expect of a formulaic action flick, which means that it delivers nothing surprising or innovative at all. This is strictly a movie for people who just want to see a lot of choreographed violence and don’t care much about having an intriguing story where viewers are challenged to solve mysteries along with the main characters. And that’s a disappointment, considering the protagonist is a police officer who’s been given the task of finding and capturing an elusive, murderous gang and the corrupt businessman who’s hired these thugs.

“Raging Fire” is the last movie directed by Benny Chan, who died of nasopharyngeal cancer in 2020, at the age of 58. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s certainly not his best. And at 126 minutes, “Raging Fire” is a little too long, considering there’s not much of a plot and the movie has a little too much repetition of similar scenarios. It’s the same old story that dozens of other movies have already had: an ethical cop leader leads a team to take down a group of criminals. And there’s a wealthy person who wants to take over the world—or at least dominate a certain part of the world and get richer by having other people do the dirty work. Yawn.

In “Raging Fire,” which takes place in Hong Kong, the cop in charge is Cheung Sung-bong (played by Donnie Yen), also known as Bong, who works for Hong Kong’s Regional Crime Unit. Bong has a reputation as a fearless leader who can get the job done well. He has an excellent track record of catching major criminals. And therefore, you know exactly how this movie is going to end before it even starts.

Yau Kong-ngo (played by Nicholas Tse), also known as Ngo, is Bong’s former protégé who has gone rogue and formed a gang of criminals. In the beginning of the “Raging Fire,” Bong and his team have raided a warehouse lair of drug dealers. However, Ngo becomes a masked interloper who creates chaos in this raid when he becomes a sniper who kills off some of the people in the building.

Ngo is ruthless and insists on unwavering loyalty from everyone in his gang, which consists primarily of other former cops. Coke Ho (played by Ken Law) and Wong (played by Brian Siswojo) are like the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of Ngo’s gang because these two are very close to each other and practically inseparable. There’s also Chiu (played by Henry Mak), who is self-conscious about the burn scar on the right side of his face and is often teased about his scar by other people. Other members of the gang are Mok Yik-chuen (played by Yu Kang) and Chu Yuk-ming (played by German Cheung).

People on Bong’s team include Yuen Ka-po, also known as Beau (played by Patrick Tam), who is Bong’s superior officer. Bong’s Regional Crime Unit subordinates are Chow Chi-chun (played by Deep Ng), token female Turbo Lui (played by Jeana Ho), Kwan Chung-him (played by Bruce Tong) and Cho Ning (played by Angus Yeung). These cops do not have distinct personalities and are just there to literally be backup characters in fight scenes.

A rich bank mogul named Fok Siu-tong (played by Kwok Fung), who owns HK Fortune Banking, is financing Ngo’s gang and is calling the shots in whatever crimes they commit. “Raging Fire” has double crosses, a crystal meth drug bust worth about $48 million, a past kidnapping, a criminal trial and a hostage situation crammed in between the expected fights with fists, guns, knives and bombs.

As is usually the case in action flicks like “Raging Fire,” it’s all about the men, since women are usually reduced to subservient roles. Bong has a pregnant wife named Anna Lam (played by Qin Lan), who’s not much more than the stereotypical “worried wife at home” of the movie’s action hero. Chiu has a mean-spirited girlfriend named Bonnie (played by Leung Ying Ting Rachel), who isn’t in the movie long for the most predictable reason in a movie that doesn’t value women very much.

The fight scenes in “Raging Fire” certainly have a lot of energy but not much imagination. The hostage scene is beyond ridiculous. And as for the movie’s dialogue and acting, let’s just say that this movie is far from award-worthy. “Raging Fire” could be just silly fun for viewers. But considering that these action stars and filmmakers have done much better movies, “Raging Fire” is unfortunately a misfire that will be most-remembered as director Chan’s last film.

Well Go USA released “Raging Fire” in select U.S. cinemas on August 13, 2021. The streaming service Hi-YAH! will premiere the movie on October 22, 2021. The movie’s release date on digital and Blu-ray is on November 23, 2021.

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