Lifeline | Chicago Reader

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A blatant imitation of Hollywood blockbusters, this 1997 firefighter epic from Hong Kong recalls Backdraft, Daylight, and a dozen other action flicks that proffer amazing stunts at the expense of logic and character development. Still, its setup is intriguing: a team of firefighters, supposedly jinxed and at odds with their superiors, need to prove they have the right stuff. Their ethics, insular camaraderie, and grace under pressure suggest the laconic heroes of Howard Hawks, but the script puts them through a series of awkward soap opera predicaments that soon render them cardboard figures. All of this rather casually leads up to the film?s raison d?etre, an elaborate obstacle course through a burning factory; aided by spectacular effects, this gripping half-hour finale conveys the terror of claustrophobia so vividly that one can almost forgive the film's mawkish tone. Directed by Johnnie To; with Alex Fong, Carman Lee, and Lau Ching-wan, Hong Kong's Robert Mitchum, as the weary boss.

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