ReviewWriter: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
The Pang brothers' films
The Pang brothers Oxide and Danny Pang have done it again: they have managed to turn what should have been a claustrophobic and compelling thriller about a group of survivors trapped in a burning building, among which includes two brothers with conflicting ideals, into a B movie. The sizeable plot holes and shallow characterization are funnier than terrifying, and any self-respecting star will wish for the film to be swallowed up by the very flames that they sought to depict.
The film starts off with a training exercise, after which the disagreement between the film's two protagonists, brothers Tai-kwan (Sean Lau) and his younger brother Keung (Louis Koo) is apparent. Tai-kwan's stoic personality and by-the-book ethos is frowned upon by the latter. Keung's frustration leads him to join their uncle's fire protection company and the film fasts forward to four years later, with Keung driving a flashy car and opening his own fire protection company while Tai-kwan grapples between his job as a firefighter and his duty as a husband and soon-to-be father. A series of coincidences leads to Keung's building going up in flames, leaving him and his elder brother's pregnant wife Si-lok (Angelica Lee), who also coincidentally happens to be there, trapped together with many others.
At its heart, "Inferno" is actually a film about everyday people making really bad choices. For example, the fire started because someone decided to smoke in a non-smoking room. Director Oxide Pang continues to cast his wife Angelica Lee in almost every movie he makes despite of her subpar acting. Angelica Lee plays a woman who is bitter that her husband does not give her priority over the other victims trapped in the burning building. A mother frantically tries to put out the raging fire instead of running, which leads her and her husband to lose sight of their daughter Lam-Lam (Crystal Lee). A pair of robbers jumps onto an unstable crane even though the firemen told them to keep calm. Granted, these bad decisions keep the drama coming, but after a while they start to get old. The way the drama plays out is like one of the horror films the Pang brothers are known for. Jolts are thrown at the audience every so often, which helps keep the plot interesting, but the poor special effects and even poorer script dampens any excitement, and we are left praying for the next stupid deed one of the survivors will do or the next sudden ceiling collapse to come.
The icing on the cake is the one-dimensional characters. All of them never grow beyond the roles given to them, and are instead reduced to quivering and whimpering messes. The only standout performance here is Sean Lau. The film may not have given him a big enough room to exercise his acting skills, but he manages to make us root for him even when his character is supposed to be the cold fish. You can see the conflict in his face when he hears and sees his wife in danger, but he remains steadfast in his duty to save first a stranger-in-need. In contrast to Sean Lau's dedication to acting are Louis Koo and Angelica Lee, both of whom seem satisfied to breeze through the whole film looking irritated.
In conclusion, "Inferno" is reminiscent of the Pang brothers' supernatural thrillers such as "The Messengers". There are the occasional jolts and exhilarating escape sequences, but they cannot make up for the lacklustre narrative, the lack of authentic humanity in the characters and the CGI flames. If anything, the film merely serves as a commercial for Guangzhou's firefighters, as they perform their jobs with an efficiency that is commendable in light of the disastrous circumstances, not to mention the fact that anyone who tries to leave to government sector for a private venture such as Keung, gets to watch as their dreams mercilessly scorched.Cinema Online, 27 September 2013