HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:87
Alan Yeung’s crime thriller is a story told by two men on opposite sides of the fence. One is detective Liu (Andy Lau), an inspector who’s trying to take out Cao Nun (Hu Jun), the biggest gangster in Hong Kong. Cao has evaded capture for years and is a major thorn in the side of the Hong Kong police department. Desperate to track him down and put the mobster behind bars, Liu reaches out to the other man in our two part equation, one Bong (Gordon Lam), a gangster who’s just gotten out of prison. Bong doesn’t really want to get back into the criminal underworld, as he’s just got out of the slammer and has a beautiful girl waiting for him. Unfortunately, circumstances force him to take up his mantle as a villain once more and he falls back into the same crowd. Detective Liu realizes that he’s the perfect man for the job to act as a mole and weed out the threat of Cao Nun’s reign of terror.
Adding more to the soup, inspector Liu doesn’t believe he can trust Bong to do his job and ends up using an old informer, Tong (Patrick Keung), to act as his agent inside. Things get dicey when a heist goes wrong and Tong is ousted as the mole in the group, ending up costing him his life and that of his disabled daughter. Liu has just lost his ace in the hole and now has only Bong to turn to. Offering him a deal, Liu offers immunity for Bong and even evidence for Bong’s girlfriend that he’s not a criminal anymore, but rather working with the police so that Bong can start his life anew. Now it’s up to the unreliable criminal to try and put away Cao, but things get turned upside down when Liu, in a fit of rage, frames Cao for the murder of Tong and gets caught on camera by a low level punk. Liu’s world turns into a violent quest for revenge as his world flips upside down. He’s crossed a line and now he can’t ever come back, framing a suspect, killing a kid and now the only thing he has left is vengeance on those he’s been tracking down.
You can tell that director Alan Yeung has taken some queues from Michael Mann’s “Heat” as well as some stylistic choices from John Woo’s “The Killer”. The opening scene with the armored car heist plays out very similarly to the heist in “Heat,” and the final battle in the streets reeks of homages to that same movie. At the same time, there is this nice, over the top, John Wooish level of crazy action. There’s more ammo than most third world countries have access to, with fully automatic heavy assault weapons, a 50 caliber death machine, more handguns than you can shake a stick at, and the incredible ability for every weapon other than a pistol to be outfitted with tracer rounds and fire in slow motion. It was obvious that the movie was meant to be dead serious, but there is a sort of gleeful tone to the action that amps it up and leaves you with a grin on your face. That final battle is so over the top I thought that I wasn’t watching a heist anymore, but rather an Arnold movie resplendent with unlimited ammo.
The plot has been done before: good cop goes bad, informant tries to bring down a criminal organization, but it’s the actors that really sell the movie. Littered with an all-star cast of Asian actors, the drama is tense, the violence brutal, and the tone dark. Andy Lau has been acting for decades and has done some phenomenal work over the years, so his presence alone raises the film a notch above what it would be like without him. Patrick Keung and Gordon Lam (best known of “Ip Man” and “Infernal Affairs”) is top notch in an otherwise generic crime thriller, giving a very nuanced performance as the tortured gangster who wants out.
My only complaint with the story had to be the inclusion of too many sub plots. It felt as if it needed a three film set like “Infernal Affairs” trilogy to really flesh out all the relationships and demons that they were dealing, with and it got a little congested at times. The stories are fine on their own, but as the film gets its flow down, the “twists” from some of the subplots can be a bit jarring and seem out of place. Still, the action scenes are awesome and the visual style is blast from the old days of John Woo, so it should easily satisfy action junkies and crime junkies alike. I certainly had a blast watching it, and gladly give it a nice recommendation.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=27233[/img]“Firestorm” is going to have your jaw on the floor with amazement; the 2.40:1 AVC encoded transfer is simply spectacular. Shot with Epic RED cameras, the movie looks as pristine and shiny smooth as you could possibly hope for, so much so that I almost felt like I could reach out and touch the actors and objects in the film. Colors are bright and cheery; primaries literally pop off the screen at every turn, especially the vehicle paint colors, and the grading is usually very natural (although there are a few times when there is a stylistic scene or two that was intentionally muted and desaturated for dramatic effect). Skin tones are very natural with some incredibly inky blacks. The digital cameras used create a crystal clear image that lends itself to some incredible levels of fine detail throughout, showcasing all the debris and rubble that is generated during the action sequences. Rain looks amazing, and I couldn’t see a single instance of digital artifacting or compression issues.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=27241[/img]The audio for “Firestorm” is almost as impressive as the video, with one of the most immersive tracks that I’ve heard in a long time. The directionality and levels of immersion are an integral part of the sonic experience here, with bullets whizzing and flying around at all times with some of the most incredible usage of the rear channels. While the visuals had plenty of tracer rounds to see on screen, the audio was so lifelike and realistic that it felt like you could almost HEAR the tracers themselves as the bullets carved a path so deep that you could hear where each and every bullet landed and each casing dropped on the ground. Dialogue was spot on perfect, and the LFE was top notch. The guns packed an incredible wallop and explosions rocked my cinema room with deep extension. While it was loud and powerful, the LFE also was tight and accurate, retreating when it wasn’t needed, while still adding a nice sense of weight to the overall track.
• Making of Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
“Firestorm” is a breath of fresh air in Hong Kong cinema, as it’s a nonstop barrage of action and kinetic energy, which has been sorely lacking in the genre for quite some time. The film doesn’t pull punches and doesn’t slow down once the entire time. Careening at breakneck speed, the action is intense, the drama is great, and I had a great time watching it. It’s a bit intense at times, so much so that you have a hard time actually liking anyone but Bong’s girlfriend and Tong, but Crime Thrillers have than tendency of pulling tough, unlikeable people into impossible situations. The audio and video are off the charts, so much so that I need to demo this in my next gathering of friends. Extras are a bit limited, but don’t let that stop you from checking out “Firestorm”. Definitely recommended.
Starring: Chen Yao, Andy Lau, Ka Tung Lam
Directed By: Alan Yuen
Written By: Alan Yuen
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: Cantonese: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Cantonese DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 110 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Buy Firestorm Blu-ray on Amazon
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