ContactSales: Universe Film Distribution (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: China, 30 Sep 2013; Hong Kong, 3 Oct 2013.
Presented by Bona Film Group (CN), Guangzhou Ying Ming Culture Communication (CN), Universe Entertainment (HK), Sun Entertainment Culture (HK), Golala Investment (HK). Produced by Enable Film Production (HK). Executive producers: Yu Dong, Daneil Lam, Chau Cheok-wah. Producers: Daneil Lam, Oxide Pang, Danny Pang.
Script: Szeto Kam-yuen, Nicholl Tang, Oxide Pang, Danny Pang, Wu Mengzhang. Photography: Anthony Pun. Editing: Curran Pang. Music: Peter Kam, Wong Kin-wai. Art direction: Attis Lee. Costume design: Ida Triệu. Sound: Phyllis Cheng, Ken Wong. Action: Dion Lam. Special effects: Kam Tong-fok. Visual effects: Victor Wong, Bryan Cheung (vfxNova Digital Productions). 3-D stereography: Markus Lanxinger.
Cast: Lau Ching-wan (Mai Dajun/Mak Tai-kwan), Louis Koo (Mai Qiang/Mak Keung, his younger brother), Chen Sicheng (Li Jianle/Lee Kin-lok, the obstetrician), Angelica Lee (Lin Sile/Lam Si-lok, Dajun's wife), Crystal Lee (Linlin/Lam-lam, trapped girl), Marc Ma (Hao/Ho, Sun's larcenous employee), Jin Qiaoqiao (Meimei/Mei-mei, Linlin's mother), Zang Jinsheng (Gao Sheng/Ko Sing, chief security guard), Eddie Cheung (Xin/Shun, Meimei's husband), Joe Ma Tak-chung (Liu Ting/Lau Ting), Hui Siu-hung (Sun/Suen, the diamond merchant), Terence Chui (Gao Baoqiang/Ko Bo-keung, Gao Sheng's son), Natalie Tong (Bingbing/Ping-ping, Mai Qiang's fiancee), Jackie Xu (Mandy, Mai Qiang's assistant), Zhang Chi (Xie/Tse, fireman), Tian Zhenwei (Dong/Tung, Sun's other employee), Alex Lee (Zhong/Chung, fireman), Johnny Ko (Qiu/Kou, fireman), Kittipong Subthawonpan (Zhang/Cheung, fireman), Punyaphat Boonkoonchanakom (Jie/Kit, fireman), K.K. Tan, Cheung Yiu-fai (victims), John Au (Zeng/Tsang, CEO), Fung Hong-ling (Wang/Wong, CEO), Lai Chi-wai (Huo/Fok, supervisor), Wong So-foon (victim's mother), Wang Jun (reporter), Zhao Gongrong (chemical company boss), Li Zhizhong (construction site foreman), Zhong Lei (firemen's deputy chief commander), Zhao Fanghua (firemen's deputy commander), Heng Renjun (brothers' father), Anthony Lau (Chen/Chan, CEO).
Out of Inferno 3D 逃出生天３Ｄ
Contemporary action drama
2013, colour, 2.35:1, 3-D, 107 mins
Directed by Oxide Pang (彭順), Danny Pang (彭發)
By Derek Elley
Sun, 20 October 2013, 11:00 AM (HKT)
The Pang Brothers' best film in years is solid genre entertainment, no more. Asian events.
Guangzhou, southern China, the present day. During a training exercise by the city's fire-fighting force, Mai Qiang (Louis Koo) is bawled out by his supervisor, elder brother Mai Dajun (Lau Ching-wan), for not following regulations. Subsequently, Mai Qiang leaves the force to work as a consultant for his uncle, while Dajun stays on. Four years later, on the hottest day for 50 years (34°C, 99% humidity), Dajun drops his three-month pregnant wife Sile (Angelica Lee) off at the Guangzhou International Trade Center for a check-up by her obstetrician Li Jianle (Chen Sicheng) on the 14th floor. In the foyer she bumps into Mai Qiang, who hasn't contacted his brother in four years. Mai Qiang, who designed the building's fire-security system, is on his way to a fund-raising reception on the 40th floor being thrown by his company, set up with his partner Bingbing (Natalie Tong), to whom he now proposes. Meanwhile, back at work, following pressure from his wife, Dajun applies for a transfer. Suddenly a fire breaks out in the air-conditioning plant in the GITC's basement and Dajun finds himself called out to deal with the problem. Inside the building, Mai Qiang evacuates the guests at his reception. But elsewhere, Sile is trapped with her obstetrician; a family whose wife (Jin Qiaoqiao) is opening a shop lose their young daughter (Crystal Lin); and two workers (Marc Ma, Tian Zhenwei) in a diamond-cutting business steal the goods when their boss (Hui Siu-hung) is accidentally killed.
Without over-rating it as a slice of pure popcorn entertainment, Out of Inferno 3D 逃出生天３Ｄ — "the world's first disaster movie in real 3D" according to Mainland posters, "Hong Kong's first 3D disaster movie" according to Hong Kong posters — is the best film by the very wobbly Pang Brothers 彭氏兄弟 since The Eye 見鬼 (2002) — yes, that's more than a decade ago. A solid genre exercise with flashes of real quality, it leaves their last stereoscopic collaboration, lame horror The Child's Eye 3D 童眼 (2010), limping in the dust. In-between the two, Oxide PANG 彭順 — the way more talented of the twins — also directed the very respectable Sleepwalker in 3D 夢遊 (2011) on his own, and it's tempting to ascribe Inferno's qualities to him rather than to Danny PANG 彭發. More likely, the improvement is equally due to the fact that Inferno is an action movie: though the Pangs' names are largely associated with horror/ghost films, their better productions have actually been either pure action (Bangkok Dangerous บางกอกแดนเจอรัส เพชฒฆาตเงียบ ： อันตราย (2000), The Storm Warriors 風雲Ⅱ (2009)) or psychodramas (The Eye, Oxide's The Detective Ｃ＋偵探 (2007)) rather than ghouly frightfests.
With a comfortable budget (HK$150 million/US$19 million) and exteriors shot in Guangzhou, China (where the story is set), the movie has a proper sense of size for a fire-fighting spectacle. It lacks the glossy production values of The Tower 타워 (2012), South Korea's recent excursion into the genre, but it does have an authentically local feel rather than simply trying to replicate and outdo similar Hollywood movies.
The biggest weakness of the Pangs' films has always been their scripts and this one, by the late SZETO Kam-yuen 司徒錦源 (who died in Oct 2012 and to whom the movie is dedicated), Nicholl TANG 鄧力奇 (Accident 意外 (2009)), Mainlander WU Mengzhang 吳孟璋 (Sleepwalker) and the Pangs themselves, is nothing special. The by-the-book screenplay simply assembles a collection of characters in a high-rise building before stranding them on various floors. The outbreak of the fire at the 20-minute mark is borderline unbelievable, as are some other coincidences; but to its credit the tight editing (as usual, by Curran PANG 彭正熙) doesn't let the film get too bogged down in emotional subplots involving what are only ever cardboard characters. Action predominates, with just a smidgeon of conflict between the two male leads. Indeed, one subplot, which hints at a backstory between the female lead and her obstetrician, appears to have been all but excised.
The action, claustrophobically staged by Hong Kong veteran Dion LAM 林迪安, has a more realistic, everyday feel than the unbelievable heroics in some disaster movies; it's the better for it, with one vertiginous rescue sequence centred on a crane and another set in a flooded lift shaft. However, the dominant theme in Inferno is fire, which is visually well caught by d.p. Anthony PUN 潘耀明 (Overheard 竊聽風雲 (2009), Shaolin 新少林寺 (2011), The Silent War 聽風者 (2012)) in his first Pang Brothers outing, though not endowed with the visceral, living quality of Johnnie TO 杜琪峯's grittier Lifeline 十萬火急 (1997). The film's sense of geography is no clearer than most of today's disaster movies but individual interiors (shot in Thailand) and basic special effects (collapsing roofs and floors, explosions) are fine, relatively unexaggerated despite good use of 3-D.
Donning a fireman's suit for the second time in his career (after Lifeline), LAU Ching-wan 劉青雲 is believably grizzled and professional, as the brother for whom the rulebook comes first and family ties second. However, a miscast Louis KOO 古天樂 is scarcely believable as either his younger brother or a former fireman for whom the rulebook comes second to family ties, and he's consistently out-acted on a physical level by Lau and on an emotional one by Angelica LEE 李心潔 as his sister-in-law. It's Lee, in her fourth appearance in husband Oxide's movies (The Eye, Re-cycle 鬼域 (2006), Sleepwalker), who gives the most thoughtful performance, breathing genuine emotion into a generic role. Partly thanks to her, though also to Peter KAM 金培達 and WONG Kin-wai 王建威's score, the film's nicely downbeat coda — virtually dialogue-free — packs some real emotion, another surprise for a Pang Brothers film.
The original title roughly means Escaping Alive. Though largely financed by Mainland money and set in China, the film defiantly bucks the current linguistic trend for such co-productions by being shot in Cantonese rather than Mandarin, and the end credits give only Cantonese versions of characters' names. (The above castlist gives both versions, Mandarin first.) The decision can be partly justified by the fact that Cantonese is widely used in Guangzhou, which is just across the border from Hong Kong, but it's weakened by the key Hong Kong actors using their own voices and speaking with Hong Kong accents. In China the film was shown in a Mandarin-dubbed version, except in Guangzhou and the rest of Guangdong province where most prints were Cantonese.