Raging Fire is an occasionally entertaining but otherwise unexceptional action joint in which a good cop learns more about the gray areas of law while maintaining his dignity.
It stars Donnie Yen as Cheung Sung-pong, the uncompromising leader of a Regional Crimes Unit. His foe is Yau Kong-ngo (Nicolas Tse), Cheung’s former protege. Tse is an incredibly handsome actor with glorious hair. He plays Yau with the necessary anger and impishness that comes with being the bad guy in a starring vehicle for an established martial-arts star like Yen. Yen kicks some ass, but not enough to make the two-plus hours worth the investment.
Most of Raging Fire is just serviceable melodrama between big action sequences, so I’m glad Tse makes his bits fun. Like every self-serious cop film in the last two-and-a-half decades, essentially everything here is more or less a stylistic riff on Michael Mann’s Heat. The best Heat ripoff in the past few years was Den of Thieves, which went all in on making every single character a total piece of shit. Raging Fire can’t allow Yen to do much besides smile and act noble, so not much of the drama really lands.
Neither do most of the action sequences, which emphasize gunplay and CGI car crashes rather than Yen’s athleticism. He’s almost 60, so I suppose that is reasonable. The amount of gunfire in Raging Fire rivals that of Den of Thieves. Many more civilians are killed in the crossfire here, although it never amounts to anything plot-wise. Just blood and guts and viscera as the Good Guns shoot at the Bad Guns. Endlessly.
I’m not sure why Raging Fire is over two hours long, but the final fight sequence between Cheung and Yau is pretty great. The two roll around a dilapidated church, stabbing one another with construction equipment. Stab, stab. Punch, punch. Lots of screaming. It’s well-choreographed, as should be expected from Yen, and a lot of fun to watch. It’s also sufficiently brutal for the price of admission. Director Benny Chan, who died soon after filming, shoots the hell out of it.
Still, not much else in Raging Fire feels great or memorable. It’s certainly not bad, just nothing new let alone exceptional.