The final film from Hong Kong maverick Benny Chan (Big Bullet, New Police Story, Who Am I?), who sadly died during post-production, this has all the genre pleasures of an old school bad cop v good cop flick. Honest, stoic cop Bong (Donnie Yen) is about to capture a longtime criminal nemesis when, to his horror, a masked gang annihilate his foe along with a dozen other colleagues. Even more shocking, Bong soon discovers that the leader of this savage ambush – spectacularly shot at an abandoned shopping mall – is none other than Ngo (Nicholas Tse), a former comrade-in-arms whom he sent to jail for misconduct.
Straight out of prison and thirsty for blood, Ngo and his band of cops-turned-criminals are itching to settle the score, which leads to some adrenaline-pumping action pieces. The ageless Yen is as mesmerising as ever in these sequences, one of which involves him infiltrating a housing project and jumping through one window to another, all while being outnumbered by ruthless goons. Still, Tse steals the show here, in part because his villain has more depth than Yen’s angel of justice. Sporting long black locks and a broody gaze, Ngo makes for an almost tragic figure; he is only evil because of misplaced loyalty to a system that does not hesitate to spit him out.
Such resentful undercurrents add an impressive grittiness to the action sequences: the fight scenes are drenched in mud and tears, and the camera revels in the material dirtiness of combat. There are occasional lags during dialogue-heavy moments, but the final showdown between Tse and Yen – the pair wrestle each other among the rubble of a run-down church – is a special moment.
• Raging Fire is released on 12 November in cinemas.