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Out of Inferno
Out of Inferno

Louis Koo and Lau Ching-Wan get Out of Inferno.
Chinese: 逃出生天
Year: 2013
Director: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang Fat

Daniel Lam, Alvin Lam, Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang Fat

Writer: Szeto Kam-Yuen, Nicholl Tang, Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang Fat, Ng Mang-Cheung
Action: Dion Lam Dik-On
Cast: Lau Ching-Wan, Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Angelica Lee Sum-Kit, Chen Sicheng, Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai, Crystal Lee, Natalie Tong Sze-Wing, Jin Qiaoqiao, Marc Ma, Siu Fei, Zang Jinsheng, Hui Siu-Hung, Joe Ma Tak-Chung, Tian Zhenwei, Jackie Xu
The Skinny: Average disaster film is fine for undemanding audiences, who will probably see it regardless because of the well-worn but still popular Lau Ching-Wan/Louis Koo pairing. For filmgoers who want more from their movies, Out of Inferno disappoints. Anyway, do you really expect more from the Pang Brothers anymore?
by Kozo:
Out of Inferno is the best Pang Brothers film in a decent while. Unfortunately, given the sibling filmmakers’ long-ago transformation from genre auteurs to Universe Entertainment schedule fillers, that compliment doesn’t mean all that much. The Pang Brothers’ latest offers plenty of material to highlight on a press release: Besides yet another team-up of tanned leading men Lau Ching-Wan and Louis Koo (12 films and counting!), the film offers a first-time pairing between acting award winners Lau and Angelica Lee. The “shot in 3D” hook is print-worthy even if this is the Pangs’ third go-around with the technology, and the film’s status as a disaster movie is relatively unique for a Chinese film. Those plusses are enough for a passing grade; while Out of Inferno will never qualify as anything special, the film does enough with its selling points to make it an OK audience picture. Sorry, we’re not picky about our Lau Ching-Wan + Louis Koo team-ups. Seriously, did you see Poker King? The bar is set low for these two.

Matching those lowered expectations, the film’s script is uninspired and mechanical, and seems like it could have been written by screenwriting software. Firefighter brothers Tai Kwan (Lau Ching-Wan) and Keung (Louis Koo) had a falling out four years ago, and Keung has since left the force to start his own fire solutions company. His company is having a wine-and-cheese launch party on the same day – and in the exact same Guangzhou building – that Tai Kwan’s wife Si Lok (Angelica Lee) is visiting her obstetrician (Chen Sicheng). Combine the above with crappy building maintenance, bad air conditioning and the most humid day of the year, and presto, you’ve got a fast-rising inferno of flame and emotion. As Tai Kwan races to save lives, including that of his wife and unborn child, Keung is drawn to helping those inside the building. Will they save most of the important characters? Will Tai Kwan and Si Lok reconcile their nagging marital issues? Will Tai Kwan and Keung bond like the dark-skinned brothers that they are? The answer should be obvious before you buy your ticket.

The film’s peril and pyrotechnics are more routine than spectacular, but the deadly situations, fire effects and 3D embers flying about should be enough to distract casual moviegoers. Those looking for strong story or characters should look elsewhere. Out of Inferno serves up many stories and characters but few are interesting. Besides the family conflicts, there’s a pair of sparring jewel thieves, a lost little girl (Crystal Lee of Unbeatable), and a chubby security guard family among the group stuck in the high-rise. Everyone has a story and the Pangs introduce each in perfunctory fashion. The rift between Keung and Tai Kwan is presented early but only explained mid-film, resulting in their conflict seeming mildly overblown in the first half. The actual issue – whether to save a loved one or a stranger first – is a fair one, but it’s also handled in a disingenuous fashion. Basically, the film goes so far out of its way to pose its central question that it makes Lau Ching-Wan’s by-the-book character appear like kind of a dick.

To his credit, Lau Ching-Wan performs with such calm integrity that it makes his paternalistic moralizing admirable. Angelica Lee is equally measured in her acting, though her character – like most of the characters in this movie – is two-dimensional. The dialogue is too static and obvious, with people standing around dispensing exposition instead of emoting actively. As is typical, Louis Koo overacts effectively, but he turns it on a bit too early here. The Pangs have only been competent and not exemplary at directing actors, and they bring that same sufficient, workmanlike quality to the whole film. This is technically proficient entertainment that lacks the heart seen in Johnnie To’s 1997 firefighter opus Lifeline. That film, which also starred Lau Ching-Wan, may have gotten too syrupy with its soap opera antics, but it managed to convey the sweat, tears and humanity of its firefighter characters. Out of Inferno makes its firemen into state-sponsored icons – uniformed do-gooders who execute their jobs with respect and ingenuity but without passion or, well, fire. Out of Inferno could use more flames of the metaphorical kind. (Kozo, 10/2013)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on 2D + 3D Blu-ray Disc
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