Review Action thriller
118 minutes / Opens tomorrow / ***
SINGAPORE - The story: Hong Kong police inspector Lui (Andy Lau) is determined to nab baddie Nam (Hu Jun), a crook who has escaped jail sentences multiple times due to lack of court evidence. He must also decide if he can trust his former classmate and ex-convict Shing Bong (Gordon Lam), who shows up with insider information and volunteers as an informant on an upcoming job.
Promotional materials for this film constantly play up "the Central scene" - and for good reason.
Central, in this case, refers to Hong Kong's famously busy financial district. Oh, and it gets massively blown up.
Though Chinese films have toyed with big explosions before (see last year's The Viral Factor), rarely have they reached a scale as large as what is shown in this one climactic scene alone.
Entire buildings collapse, vehicles fly up and the ground eventually caves in on itself.
It is a destructive scene that is almost on a par with big blow-ups featured in major Hollywood blockbusters such as the Transformers movies, even if some of the computer-generated imagery here is a little patchy.
For action film fans, it is exhilarating to watch, though the scene drags on far too long and could have done with some judicious editing.
Still, going by the amount of fiery spectacle alone, the film manages to stand apart from the typical Hong Kong police actioner, despite the familiar-sounding premise.
Here, the always reliable leading man Andy Lau plays police inspector Lui, a cool cop role reminiscent of his part in the now-iconic Infernal Affairs (2002).
At 52, the actor still has what it takes to serve up some mean action sequences (well-choreographed by veteran Chin Kar Lok) while looking his usual suave self.
It does get a little preposterous, however, when he comes off as Mr Invincible, getting out of every bloody situation without so much as a limp.
But it is the character's moral struggles that make him compelling to watch. Unlike in Infernal Affairs, where his character's destiny was mostly in the hands of others, Firestorm's inspector Lui has the luxury of making his own decisions.
A principled cop, he diligently does everything by the book, including the follow-up paperwork for all his cases, which his subordinates deem both tedious and pointless. "It's the rules," he repeatedly reminds them.