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Imagine throwing up your lunch, and looking down at the result. That's basically what Ringo Lam's 2016 Chinese action flick Sky on Fire is; a collection of random pieces churned together without an ounce of cleverness, the result leaving me speechless - and not in a good way. Though his last foray, Wild City, was arguably sensational, and kept me rooted to the spot, Sky on Fire is an absolute insult to humanity - yes, it is that ridiculous.
Don't get me wrong...the car chases are magnificently choreographed, with enough staged crashes and smashes to get your heart racing. The musical score, from its sweeping melodies to its beating drums is great, and if the film had any idea what it actually wanted to accomplish, the music would have made it that much more captivating. The computer generated effects are continuous, and though they are *ahem* obviously fake, they sure are pretty.
Daniel Wu stars as Tianbo, the security chief at Sky One, a massive pharmaceutical corporation, where Dr Yu (the lovely Zhang Jingchu) has successfully developed the cure to cancer, using ex-stem cells (no idea what the "ex" means). Unfortunately, the stem cells are stolen, during a not-so-daring robbery by a gang of miscreants led by Ziwan (Zhang Ruo Yun), who spends most of the film looking as though he has no idea what's going on. Don't worry Zhang - I feel your pain.
From tracking down the 'masterminds' (dripping with sarcasm I'm afraid) of the heist, to uncovering a slew of underwhelming conspiracies, Wu and the rest of the cast spend much of the film holding guns to each other's heads and shouting, the occasional fisticuffs looking like something ripped out of Team America. You would think with so many guns, someone might actually think to, well, shoot one, something that is rarely the case.
Somehow, Jia (Chang Hsaio-Chaun) and his sister Jane (Amber Kuo), become embroiled in this affair. In the opening of the film, we discover Jane spontaneously, without explanation, has cancer, Jia sacrificing everything to save her. All the while, Yu's husband, Tang (Yao Fan-Kuang), the owner of the conglomerate, uses his personal lapdog Wolf (Li Haitao) to control the situation, his own agenda in mind.
On paper, this almost sounds sane - it's the execution that is beyond acceptable. The aforementioned cast are just a small sample of the many faces that appear, not one of them receiving sufficient characterisation for us to understand their motives. We occasionally receive glimpses, in the form of convoluted flashbacks; example, melodramatic scenes of Tianbo's late wife, though how this relates to the plot, or his character, who seldom seems in mourning, is beyond me. On other occasions, Sky on Fire reveals too much, spoiling the story by revealing the villain halfway through.
Don't even get me started on the dialogue. One moment it's pseudoscientific; the next it's so awkwardly tacky I wouldn't be surprised if it attracts its own face palm memes; the next, it's poetic. There is no rhyme or reason for any of it, Zhang Jingchu being perhaps the only actor who can emotionally empower the otherwise shameful script (I genuinely mean this as a compliment). Occasionally, Lam discusses the preciousness of life, an idea which seems in direct contrast with money, these been two of the central themes which very rarely work, click or do anything else.
Finally, Lam's Sky on Fire has some good action scenes - perhaps he had some spare scenarios lying in his head, and threw them together, hoping for the best (which is a bit like me when I make dinner). Unfortunately, the end result is a punishingly bad film I wouldn't serve up to my worst enemy; to call it stupid would be an insult to every stupid film out there. Skip this if you can.
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