十萬火急
Lifeline (1997)


Reviewed by: Beat TG
Date: 03/10/2009
Summary: Backdraft HK-style

Could be considered Hong Kong's answer to Ron Howard's BACKDRAFT in many ways. Johnnie To, who has never failed to amaze me to this very day, does a wonderful job once again directing the story and handles relationships between the main actors; featuring Sean Lau, Alex Fong, Carman Lee, Ruby Wong and Raymond Wong, and their values of being on duty as fire fighters very well and because of that, you get quite an amount of humanity and morality within this profession in the character development which was something I appreciated very much.

Aside the drama, there's of course also great numbers of well choreographed action scenes which was done by Yuen Bun, doing a usual great job like in many other movies made by Johnnie To: consisting of fire-fights, team-work, explosions and rescues of various kinds like saving people from crushed cars/broken elevators and rooms with jammed doors etc. Overall I found LIFELINE to be a good movie (save for some parts here and there which almost made me fall asleep) and also well done for a pre-Milkyway movie (Johnnie To was still developing his style which came to be evident in these earlier films), in fact it's one of the better pre-ones of his.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 05/25/2007

And you thought the characters in Ron Howard's "Backdraft" (1992) were as one-dimensional as a piece of cardboard that (literally) went up in flames on screen. Still, there's something to be said about the cast of "Lifeline" who wade through real fires for the sake of entertainment not having the luxury of a computer generated overhaul (though some CGI is present). In a moment of sheer irony star Lau Ching-wan, having just finished battling a formidable blaze, removes his oxygen mask and smokes a cigarette. Unfortunately, that's as close as Johnnie To comes to insight in this lukewarm fire fighting drama.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 01/28/2003
Summary: I agree with MilesC

Reading what MilesC says, i totally agree, because i do not like this movie. Ok it was my first viewing so maybe like MilesC i'll change my mind in future but currently i felt bored with this movie.

Ok, i must admit i wasn't in the mood to watch a movie but this movie didn't keep me interested in it either.

I do prefer the american "BACKDRAFT" to this and i found their characters more engaging, sorry hk moives fans!!

5/10


Reviewed by: Rab99bit
Date: 07/19/2001
Summary: A fiery movie worth re-watching

It took me quite a while to source this 3 year old movie from a market VCD vendor, after reading the good reviews about it in this page. I must agree that the pyrotechnics were great and impressive even by Hollywood standards, but I wonder if it was necessary to drag it (The factory fire scenes) for 40 minutes, leaving the audience hankering for the "solution" to the firemen's entrapment. Lau Ching-Wan plays the role of "Loh Chung" - team leader for the WS Fire station - with his usual paucity of expressions. The love story between him and the suicidal doctor could be snipped off without affecting the entire story. Alex Fong, with his trademark facial-expression and eye-movement-acting, played the role of a strict Fire Station chief, who eventually learns that a good fire fighting team needs more than just good discipline. (I thought the little girl was cute !) The movie would have done better if more time had been given to the interpersonal relationships of the fire fighters with each other and with their chief.


Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 04/28/2001
Summary: Awesome Fire Movie

"Lifeline" displays some of the best fire fighting scenes ever captured on film. All of the superficial drama and the interplay between the fire fighters help to set up and propel the characters into the gripping second half of the movie. Johnnie To's work with the action set pieces far exceeds the work he put in with the actors. The characters are fairly standard. You have the hard-nosed veteran, played by Lau Ching Wan, and the assortment you'd normally see in any movie focusing on teamwork, such as the novice, the lone woman fire fighter and the commanding officer. Carman Lee shows up to provide a pretty face to look at while waiting for the fire to start. If you're looking for better acting try To's "Loving You" instead, but if you want all out fire and disaster, look no further.

The second half of this film sets a high water mark for how to stage a fire on film. It makes "Opie" Howard's "Backdraft" look like a walk in the park. The factory burning down is indescribable and can only be witnessed by watching the movie, now out on DVD, which contains a conversation with To and how he wanted to make the most realistic fire movie ever. It's been a while since I first saw this movie, but I still move to the edge of my seat when the fire starts.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 08/14/2000
Summary: Worth the second watch I gave it.

The first time I saw this movie, I HATED it. I thought it was a dull-as-dirt soap opera with an equally boring fire finale. Every once in a while, though, I get it wrong the first time, and seeing how To has become the barely-disputed king of HK cinema in the three years since Lifeline, I thought I'd give it another chance.

I can still see why I disliked the movie earlier. Although the "personal life" scenes are pretty transparent, they do serve their purpose in giving us some emotional investment with the characters. But this is only the first hour, and these scenes are interrupted by one disaster or another at fairly regular intervals. And then comes the finale... 40 minutes of burning, collapsing, exploding building. No, it's not 40 minutes like the finale of The Killer is 15 minutes, it's LITERALLY 40 minutes long, and ranks among Hong Kong's most Hollywood-shaming technical achievements. Sure there's too much slow-motion, sure Raymond Wong's score is a little over-the-top, but if you like fire, this is the movie to see. Low-budgets have made Johnnie To look for new, more restrained ways to entertain, producing several collaborations with Lau Ching-Wan that were better than this; still. Lifeline is a real accomplishment, and worth watching for its technical aspects alone.


Reviewed by: resdog781
Date: 07/31/2000
Summary: A pretty decent HK take on "Backdraft"

Let me just say right now, that I have the utmost respect for firefighters. The balls it must take for someone to run into a burning building and save someone's life is completely beyond me. I commend them all.

Anyway, the point: This was a phat-ass movie. Lau Ching-Wan plays the head of a supposedly jinxed HK fire station. As they build up the suspense toward the final pre-req "gigantic fire" sequence, the movie shows how this squad of firefighters screw up their missions, and the havoc it plays on their consciences.

A great performance by Lau Ching-Wan as usual, but an amazing performance by Ruby Wong, as a female firefighter whose conscience is burdened after failing to rescue a baby buried alive in the rubble.

Of course, they finally prove to their fellow firefighters, as well as the entire city, that they are *not* losers, but that heroism just needs a little elbow grease to get rolling. You gotta love how Lau Ching-Wan gets the idea to escape the fire at the end. This is a GREAT movie.


Reviewed by: Chuma
Date: 07/12/2000
Summary: Cool Firemen/women?!?

WS station has a bad reputation in the fire department for having
the most accidents out of the whole Hong Kong Fire Service, and one
such incident sees the entire firefighting team reporting to the hospital
with food poisoning from bad cafetira food.

It's not so funny however, when the chief has an accident while in a lift
shaft at a construction site and is rushed to the hospital. Being a good
team, the entire fire fighting force rush to his bedside and are told
to get out of the way by the nurses and to 'let the doctors do their job'
by their chief.

Further adventures await, such as the woman threatening to commit suicide,
who is saved by the new chief, much to the amusement of the station staff,
A rescue for a budgie and a baby (not in the same fire).

I'll leave the rest to you, but I will say that the conclusion is one
of the best final sequences I've seen in a film for a long time
(it's up there with the Towering Inferno or the more recent Backdraft).

This is one of the better films I've seen in a while, however probably
the only thing I didn't like is the ANNOYING little kid. Mark disagrees
with me on this, but she couldn't be more annoying if she had skipped
around and sang "Go to the one stop lighting shop!"

That aside, I think most people who like action/drama type movies
would like this film very much.

Rating : 8/10 (the annoying kid pegs it down by 2)


Reviewed by: ron
Date: 12/21/1999

A solid piece of filmmaking by Director Johnny To follows afirefighting unit considered a jinxed hardluck outfit by the rest of the Department. Lau Ching-wan is Boss, a hardened veteran who does not share the Department's view that a fireman should let victims burn if the odds are against rescue. He is at odds with his new commander (Alex Fong Chung-sun), a "By-The-Book" officer and involved with a doctor (Carmen Lee), who is distraught over a recent break-up. Unlike BACKDRAFT, which was a uneven, melodramatic film depending more on fire effects than story, LIFELINE follows the unit's personal lives and compels the viewers to be involved with their stories. Ruby Wong Chui-mei is particularly good as a female firefighter at odds with her husband over her career and starting a family. Not to say that there isn't startling fire effects: The fire in the factory makes one imagine what Hell these firefighters put themselves through to save lives. The "escape" sequence is so tight and tense, it puts DAYLIGHT to shame. This is an excellent film and highly recommended.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: shelly
Date: 12/09/1999

Lifeline is a film with multiple-personality disorder : the first two-thirds feel like TV-soap opera, but the last half hour is pure poetry. Stick with it: it's worth sitting through an hour of lives and loves of Hong Kong firefighters to get to the final 30 minutes of glorious spectacle. A laborious set up includes some fine performances: in a wonderful balcony scene, Carman Lee pulls off her richest dramatic performance to date. And Lau gives another of his effective gentle charmers. After a seemingly endless hour of this, though, the climax: an extended action-escape sequence. The real business of Lifeline is firefighters-in-fire photography, and Johnny To and his team (director of photography Cheng Siu-Keung, editor Wong Wing-ming, action director Yuen Bun) let their artistry rip. I have never been seen such intoxicatingly beautiful images of pure energy like this in film. The fire has a visceral, animated presence that is as alluring, as charismatic and as terrifying as even the most vividly characterized film villain. Within this nightmare vision, To injects close, murky, claustrophobic shots of the firefighters in action. The smoke, the tightness of the space, the sense of being trapped, in terror, in an isolated and imminently explosive space are so immediately palpable that I wasn't even aware of having taken a breath until the film reached its final (overly corny) scenes of triumph. And I wasn't aware, until late in the film, of how this pure nightmare of claustrophobia resonates with what it must be like today, in early 1997, on the ground, in Hong Kong, for those who have reason to fear the coming transition to Chinese rule.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: pablo
Date: 12/09/1999

Through a series of mishaps, a local firestation earns a reputation of being jinxed. But the team is dedicated, to the point of neglecting their personal life. Their big chance comes when a fire breaks out in a chemical plant... Lau Ching Wan, leading a team of talented newcomers, continues to delight, and the action scenes are amazing. However, the character development takes some pretty large jumps. I wouldn't be surprised to find that several scenes were cut in order to bring down the total running time. Also has a few too many slo-mo glamour shots, but now I'm just nitpicking.


Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Yan-Shi (Lau Ching-Wan) is a recklessly heroic fireman in a station said to be under a curse. Failed rescues, drowned babies, businesses overstocked with toxic wastes (flammable, of course)...there's even a mad, cackling arsonist in one of the movie's big set-pieces, though he gets incinerated fairly early on. In a warehouse fire, Yen-shi tries to rescue a fellow firefighter (walking into a wall of flame, to the cacophony of falling duct pipes and explosions). Unfortunately, he and his pals get stuck in the building without any hope of rescue in what looks and smells like a rip-off of Backdraft; doubly unfortunately, there's so much smoke you can't make anything out. This obscuring effect is not unlike the experience of reading my prose. There is, however, one masterstroke: our hero is in the basement, flames licking at canisters of toxic explosives, when he devises the perfect plan: he drives his ax into one of the air-conditioner ducts, and in a magical special effect, all the flames are sucked up and away. For a while, anyway. Take your bathroom breaks any time the rancid subplot sets in. Cool ending in which the remaining firefighters get buried in a tunnel, without hope of rescue -- right under a battalion of firetrucks.

(2/4)



[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 5