‘Firestorm‘ is a story about law and justice. Or, maybe, about justice or law. While justice is almost nothing more than a moral sense, law must be somehow “material”, predictable, replicable… so it need rules. Whatever has rules is a game, and there isn’t any more efficient way to win a game than to break the rules, if you can get away with it. If the game is “cops and robbers”, the latter have an obvious advantage, because they aren’t even supposed to follow any rules. That’s until, maybe, some fed up cop decides to play the law game no more and finally get some justice. No, ‘Firestorm’ isn’t a Bronson’s movie remake (though it’s high time for some to come, don’t you think?), but rather an interesting demonstration of no-rules not meaning no-consequences, intended or (that’s the crux) not. Police inspector Lui (a sober and always sharp as a pencil Andy Lau) will find out that not only rules stand in the way of swift justice. All that… with an awful lot of shootings, explosions, high-speed chases, explosions, hand to hand combat, explosions, drops, explosions and collapses. And explosions.
Yes, in the visual department, ‘Firestorm’ definitely lives up to its name, although an even better suited one would have been ‘Fire, lead, rubble, doves and anything but rain storm’… And, yes, you read right: doves. It’s like if ‘Firestorm’ director, Alan Yuen, were the answer to this question: ‘What if we make a genetic mashup of John Woo and Michael Bay and give him a lot of money to make a serious film?’. Maybe you won’t know what you’ll get, but you surely know what you won’t get: bored. If anything, I would have dropped the “serious film” part of the experiment, as Mr. Yuen visual talents seemed a little constrained when in tone (dramatic thriller) and too far out when set free in a couple of scenes that would have been terrific in an action fantasy flick.
Because, if nothing else, Alan Yuen makes sure every frame is filled to the top. Of what? Of whatever it takes; if he’s dealing with an action sequence, every bullet will be a tracer one, every impact will spread millions of sparks and every car will explode; if we’re talking about a dialogue scene and all that would be difficult to justify, then every video transition, grading and time mapping technique known to man will be used (why, oh, why the post-pro stroboscopic slow-mo?). I know that our attention span is decreasing by the minute but… wait… where was I? Ah, yes. This “interesting-stuff-density” obsession is (almost always) just below irredeemable tackiness, but the good-bad news is that it is utterly unnecessary. First, because not all the digital post-production was up to par, putting it mildly (although some other times is fairly spectacular). And second, Alan Yuen and his team knew where to put the camera with a not-so-common talent for balancing good storytelling and bad-ass epic. A less “enthusiast” editing and post-production would have served this movie way better, making all the “big stuff” seem even bigger via a healthy dose of contrast. And, also, ‘Firestorm’ is supposed to be a “serious film”, ain’t it?
In the talent department, everyone defend their ground more than well enough. Alan Yuen, more prolific as screenwriter than as director, put together a group of consistent (and somewhat archetypal) characters around an effective set of conflicts, allowing Andy Lau, Jun Hu, Patrick Keung and Ka Tung Lam to fill the story with moving performances. About the script, I can’t comment too much on Mr. Yuen’s take on the themes he explores without spoiling a couple of (I have to admit) interesting twists, but suffice to say that ‘Firestorm’ hasn’t the soul of a philosophical essay. And by this I don’t mean that it hasn’t a philosophical reading (everything has), but that the dramatic elements where selected probably attending more to their shock value than to a consistent moral tale (specially, and you’ll know what I mean when you see it, when “chance” comes to dance). Summing it up: ‘Firestorm’ is a fun, well-done action thriller for your viewing pleasure.