Sean Lau and Louis Koo as leading men in a heart pounding action thriller. Should have been great, but the results are patchy, like a fire that burns out some parts of a room but leaves the rest untouched.
Reviewer Score: 5
For a start, the action takes quite a long time to gather pace. It is about a third of the way before things really start moving. The plot development and sense of foreboding and danger, whilst clearly signalled, are less than compelling.
Only when the dangers of the fire are imminent is there any reason to start feeling for and worrying about the fate of the characters.
Louis Koo draws the long straw, as the hot-headed brother who leaves the brigade to set up in private enterprise, but chooses the wrong building as business premises. He gets to show a fair amount of emotion, while poor old Lau Ching Wan acts stoic. The great Lau is an ice cube in even the most dire situations (of which there are a number), and is therefore hard to feel anything for.
Emotions when they come are vastly overacted, a feeling buttressed by the way overdone music score. Any little flashes of subtlety are pretty soons drowned out, burned out or flattened.
As the attached review states, the plot is not really much chop. A well-paced action film should clip along at a pace sufficient to just let plot holes fly past, but OOI slows down, then speeds up, then slows down etc, in such a way that inconsistencies are hard to miss. The plot and much of the content is clearly taken from The Towering Inferno, with generous chunks of Ladder 49, as well as a long scene practically copied from the Poseidon Adventure ! This wholesale copying from Hollywood blockbusters only goes to underline just how inferior OOI is to them.
The problems with pace seem to be squarely the responsibility of the directors. The actors seem to be doing the best they can, within the confines of script and direction, which is overally quite okay without being remarkable.
What OOI does have going for it is the action set pieces which, aided by extensive special effects, range from pretty good to impressive and powerful. Movies about disastrous fires rely on shocks, bad surprises, split-second life-and-death decisions, and measured terror, among other devices, and OOI delivers all these and more with style.
A somewhat frustrating mess, but pretty good entertainment overall.