Film review: Out of Inferno
Out of Inferno
Starring: Sean Lau Ching-wan, Louis Koo Tin-lok, Lee Sinje
Directors: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang Fat
Category: IIB (Cantonese)
Unlike movies with police protagonists, films with firefighters as main characters are few and far between. That's probably because fire is very hard to control and film. So disaster films, like this latest offering from the Pang Brothers, make heavy use of computer-generated effects, as well as old fashioned stunt work.
But few cinematic works can rely on technological wizardry alone, and a human touch from the actors is needed to invest this first Asian 3-D fire disaster film with heart and soul.
In their 12th collaboration, Sean Lau Ching-wan and Louis Koo Tin-lok play a pair of brothers who have not spoken to each other since their father's funeral four years ago. Tai Kwan (Lau) is a fire captain who, unbeknown to his pregnant wife Si-lok (Lee Sinje), has submitted his resignation the morning an inferno breaks out in the Guangzhou skyscraper where she is seeing her gynaecologist.
On her way up to the clinic, Si-lok bumps into her brother-in-law Keung (Koo), a former firefighter who now runs a fire protection system company. Keung is hosting an even on the 40th floor to celebrate the opening of his office, when a fire starts in the basement and quickly spreads upwards.
Although Tai Kwan's unit is among those sent to fight the blaze, it's Keung who gets to Si-lok and helps her to (relative) safety. While firefighters assigned to the disaster zone help many people to escape the inferno, it's up to the ex-firefighter to find a way out for himself and his sister-in-law.
Out of Inferno is weakest when the attention is focused on hackneyed minor characters, like a father-son pair of security guards and, lamest of all, a couple of rough diamond cutters, one of whom murders his boss and steals some jewels in the ensuing chaos.
The script has definitely suffered from the death of main screenwriter Szeto Kam-yuen before the film's completion. The final version was worked on by the directorial duo, along with Nicholl Tang Nik-kei and Ng Mang-cheung, and it looks a clear case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.
On the plus side, Out of Inferno benefits tremendously from having Lau, Koo and Lee (aka Mrs Oxide Pang) in the cast, although only Koo's acting chops are stretched. But the raging fire, which hisses, roars, and moves in ways that resembles a mythical, dragon-like creature at times, is suitably menacing, and ensures that there are scenes in this action thriller that do feel suspenseful.
Out of Inferno opens on October 3