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Centers on Captain Manfred who is caught in the line of fire between high levels of corruption and malice. He must solve a brutal murder to prove his partner's innocence and unearth the truth behind Hong Kong's police force. The investigation brings him to an unlikely collaboration with sly, man-of-the-world Inspector Kee from the Narcotics Bureau, whose motives are not what they seem.
FIRE OF CONSCIENCE is a Dante Lam film and continues his fascination with armed cops and dodgy Chinese philosophy. This time his burnt out hero is a Sergeant, hunting for the pickpocket who murdered his wife, one police brutality charge at a time. He connects with a by-the-book guy from the Narc squad who may not be as clean as he appears, which gives us the inevitable cop on cop finale. The big shift this time is that in addition to some typically loud shoot-outs in crowded locations and cramped spaces, we also get a lot of character work; the good guys have bad aspects and the bad guys have good sides. It's nice that everybody has a reason for what they're doing, but in truth the characterisation doesn't always connect. Still, it's a cool HK action movie with more heart than we're used to.
For the record, I just watched another Dante Lam movie "Witness"(Mandarin title,English Title is "Beast Stalker") before seeing For Lung. While seeing Beast Stalker, I have always had this feeling of understatement in tension but overstatement in melodramatic emotional developments. Luckily in For Lung, which totally surprised me with all the kinetic power it demonstrated, director Dante Lam learned to turn the movie upside-down.<br/><br/>You can't have Hong Kong movies without clichés like locations. Violent events taking place in Mongkok is just like a story you always hear but never really see happening. Luckily, the camera focus of For Lung seems to be quite self-aware that it successfully portrayed several different cops yet allowed the audiences to relate to each of them. Leon Lai(Li Ming)'s Captain Manfred is quite a compelling character to watch. He's truly seasoned, troubled yet had a broken family to deal with. Ritchie Ren(Ren Xianqi)'s inspector Kee is much more refined with some serious charisma, but he's not who he seems to be. Kai Chi Liu plays Captain Manfred's sidekick, who's loyal yet lived a quite unexamined life. The narration is tightened up, which made all these cops more involved and allowed audiences to relate to them much better than in Beast Stalker.<br/><br/>In terms of performances, almost everyone around is remarkable in their running-scared roles. They definitely gave the taste of their fear/thirsty for violence. That being said, they are all quite convincing. As the story goes on, all the main characters got their side-stories, some bitter-sweet, some bitter-not-sweet. But, I can guarantee you they are all more genuine and involving than Beast Stalker. They are quite insightful glimpses into modern Chinese(HK included) and their mental status quo. However, this also lead to a little disappointment at the epilogue of the story.<br/><br/>Sometimes, I can read the context that director Lam didn't want the audiences to enjoy those gunfights, because these gunfights are better described as "mayhem" or "disaster" as they have such realistic edges that you will pray not to get involved in one like that.<br/><br/>Director Lam said that the reason he wanted to name the movie "For Lung"(literally translated as "flaming dragon") is to pay homage to HK the city. Dancing with paper dragons is a Chinese tradition during new years, which according to legends scared off man-eating-monsters and plagues alike. Yet, the symbol of flaming dragon is interpreted in the movie to be simply the "passion" in one's heart, be it passion to love, or passion to revenge, get even, etc. Disappointedly, the movie undervalued the visual/literal aspects of this otherwise more dynamic symbol, and pushed the final chase into a Buddhist temple, where your passions got cleansed according to Buddhism. In the closing shots, Captain Manfred gave a quite unfitting comment to conclude the movie, that "everyone's got a demon in their heart, I gave in to it." In my opinion, this movie could be quite self-contained simply with the justice nailed. If one wants to go deep in reflection, simply telling the audiences that "everyone's got a demon in their hearts" seemed forced and hollow.<br/><br/>The core conversation of the movie, equally profound and heartbreaking, was between Inspector Kee and his former mentor who's a retired police officer. The rich, happy yet balanced life of his mentor was a sad mirror to Kee's broken, crime-riddled life. In their friendly conversation, the mentor used his own experience to persuade Kee to let go of his marriage which was questioned by the bureaus because the woman Kee's about to marry was once a prostitute. Kee was an emotional man so he refused to approve his mentor's point. The mentor continued with the point that "to man, career is more important than wife and house" which is a pretty traditional oriental point, categorizing wife and house in the same group. The mentor commented, "Once you owned them, you shouldn't think about them that hard anymore". The western audiences and young oriental audiences will quickly get a grasp of the villainous nature of this conversation. Yet in my opinion, it provided the basis for the tragedies in this movie. It's tragic for Kee because despite his hard attitude which insisted marrying the flawed fiancé, he himself doesn't have faith in such a relationship. The way they are about to proceed is even harsher, and worse, they are in debt of about 500,000 dollars. It's tragic to hear this conversation because, like Kee we may not have faiths in the goodness of life after all, and we may not have a logic and value system that's more persuasive than his mentor.<br/><br/>In a society where dogs' surviving logic brings fortune, while heroes' logic brings chaos and tragedies, the director/writer Dante Lam might be very angry. Yet if the only thing dogs don't cross is the legal line, why do the heroes have to bear so many tragic consequences? The angry "fiery dragon" or the "demon" in Captain Manfred and Kee's hearts kicked off this adrenaline-pounding actioner, which presented you 3-dimensional characters. They are 3-dimensional because they can't see anything beyond, instead they see a lot below in the abyss. The final "redemption" of Captain Manfred was just a return to the "flat" reality we live in.<br/><br/>There are consequences to every choice we make. Though we may not have undertaken so much as Captain Manfred did, we can learn to protect our heart. That's something every religion talks about. According to left-wing artist Oliver Stone, "The world is flat". I surely hope he doesn't mean "perfect" by "flat" because otherwise we will have to accept all the dirty rules detested in this movie. What I am compelled to tell other people who've seen this movie is, we can be 3-dimensional too, but in another direction. With Jesus way of cross, we can actually defy the gravity of abyss that sucked in Kee. All you need is to believe.
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