The Wednesday Review, SIFF edition: Firestorm

Normally for the Wednesday Review, I tell you about a fantastic book you absolutely have to read. This month, though, it’s a little different. First, it’s a movie, not a book. Second, it’s an awesomely bad action movie. It’s got explosions and gun fights and a car chase and Andy Lau’s amazing cheekbones.

Sigh.

Firestorm is your standard cat and mouse police thriller. Inspector Liu (Lau) is determined to bring down robbery kingpin Cao (Jun Hu) by any means necessary – except planting evidence. Meanwhile, Tong and Bong, two men both tied to Liu, yet don’t know each other, are released from prison on the same day. A different times, Liu tries to use each man as a mole within Cao’s organization, so he can collect the intel he needs to gather the actual evidence to bring Cao down. But things quickly fall apart, and Liu’s left with few options and a lot of desperation.

When I’d walked into the theatre Monday night, I’d hoped for, no, expected, a twisty, smart thriller along the lines of Confession of Pain and Cold War. But Firestorm’s story almost gets lost in the action. There are quieter moments where the actors are allowed to really shine, where the squad is stuck in debrief mode and fed up with always being five steps behind Cao, or Liu’s calming down his goddaughter when she’s having a fit. Then the action picks up again, and the moment is lost.

It starts early, with a crane coming out of nowhere and spearing the front windshield of an armored truck, hefting it up on its rear bumper and dumping it in the middle of a crowded intersection. There are foot chases galore and people jumping out of buildings, fighting all the way down. Cars are rammed and wrecked and trashed, and there’s a car chase through the narrow, crowded streets of Hong Kong. Explosives ignite, the shockwaves sending bodies flying, and the last gun battle is so outlandishly improbable you can’t help but laugh. I mean, come on, five guys taking out police officers by the dozen?

Lau limps away from so many fights with little more than scratches it’s head scratching. He literally crawls out of a wrecked car at one point, bleeding from a gash on the temple, and staggers to his feet, stumbling forward to chase after the bad guys once more. He gets thrown into cars by explosions, bullets rip past him without catching him on the arm or leg, and he just puts on his fierce face and soldiers on. Seriously, it’s beyond ridiculous how many times the man gets beaten down only to get right back up again. But it’s okay, because in addition to having cheekbones to die for, he’s got a pretty amazing profile, too (well, when it’s not covered in fake blood and bruises). He’s fifty and looks fifteen years younger. It’s kind of not fair.

Firestorm didn’t end up being the movie I’d expected, but it turned out to be the movie I needed. I haven’t had that much fun at the movies in months.

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