Screenwriter Alan Yuen (Shaolin; New Police Story) makes is directorial debut in this blistering Hong Kong actioner starring screen legend Andy Lau.
Lau stars as hardboiled police inspector Lui who has been watching his city be taken over by a group of masked thugs led by Cao Nam (Hu Jun), pulling off armed robberies as a typhoon heads into town. Determined to take back control of the city, Lui begins tailing his old school friend, To Shing-bong (Gordon Lam) whom Lui suspects of being involved. An ex-con desperately trying to go clean for his girlfriend’s sake, but failing miserably, To Shing-bong will lead Lui into the depths of a violent chase, but, as Lui soon finds, the people he is dealing with are willing to to do anything, and the more he pursues them, the more he crosses the ethical line and loses his own sense of morality.
Andy Lau and Gordon Lam put on riveting performances in this non-stop shoot ’em up film, acting as the glue that holds the thinly woven plot together. Alan Yuen’s direction, meanwhile, leans heavily only on fantastic visual effects and unbelievable levels of gratuitous violence to keep the audience entertained. This is one film where the bullets and the explosions can hardly be tallied after even a few sittings. But some poor choices in computer generated effects take away from some of the bombast in key moments, such as a scene with Lau and Lam duking it out suspended in midair on a high-rise building, or some back drafts from bombs that looks obviously digital.
Put aside the incoherent twists in the plot, especially toward the end where some revelations about villains are revealed and Firestorm is an amazing ride of bullets, guts, sweat, and blood, particularly in the final act which is a virtual ballet of continuous gunplay.
Firestorm was shot in HD on the Red Epic and Red One MX cameras and brought to Blu-ray in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement by Well Go USA. The image looks generally good and noise free, but some slight color banding and posterization can be spotted in places, either directly from the digital source or from the transfer being squeezed onto a single-layer, BD-25 disc. The image looks just a bit flat, with black levels coming across as a bit pale and greyish and overall contrast just middling due to what looks like a bit of a high overall gamma setting.
This is where this release really shines. The Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack engulfs you in swarms of bullets, big, hefty sounding explosions, roaring engines, and punches and kicks that land with authoritative thwacks. Dialogue is clean, with no hints of clipping.
Nothing much at all here, but the Making Of does include some interviews and plenty of on set footage.
- Making Of (1.78:1; SD; 00:21:20)
- Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:45)
The Definitive Word
Alan Yuen shows great potential as a director in his debut with this sometimes confused but no less exciting to sit through ode to violence, grit, and crime. Firestorm may be filled with bad people and antiheroes and no real person to root for, but it still manages to entertain.
Additional Screen Captures