A Mix of Empathy, Struggle, and Confrontation
Burning Paradise (Huo shao hong lian si)
Genre: Adventure, Action, Fantasy
Year Released: 1994, 2023 Blu-ray from Eureka!
Runtime: 1h 44m
Director(s): Ringo Lam
Writer(s): Yin Nam, Wan Choi Wong
Cast: Willie Chi, John Ching, Yamson Domingo, Chun Lam, Carman Lee, Kuei Li, Quan Lin, Kam-Kong Wong, Xiqian Wu, Kam-Fai Yuen
Language: Cantonese with English subtitles
Where To Watch: now available at www.eurekavideo.co.uk
RAVING REVIEW: This memorable genre film addition, BURNING PARADISE, is helmed by Ringo Lam; the film tells a tale of conflict and brutality that holds down viewers' attention. Audiences are instantly pulled into the narrative by a cascade of adrenaline-spiking combat scenes that set the film's pulse. However, the charm dwindles as the plot progresses, sliding into a familiar pattern resembling previous adventure films like this.
The protagonist Fong Sai-Yuk played by Willie Chi emerges as a memorable character as the plot spirals around a secret faction, the Red Lotus, introduced as a fearsome force keeping Shaolin monks on their toes. Lam's directorial expertise shines as he captures and presents the ominous shades of the group, painting the organization in a more menacing light than what viewers might be accustomed to.
We find our young champion, Fong Sai-Yuk, on a collision course with the Manchu rulers, leading him to be trapped within the formidable walls of the Red Lotus Temple. Here, he encounters Kam-Kong Wong's intimidating Warden Kung character, who imposes extreme torture on the captive monks. Despite being tossed into a pit reminiscent of a grave, Fong clings to survival and crafts a plan to free his fellow captives.
There's no denying BURNING PARADISE's appeal with dynamic battle sequences and visually stunning cinematography throughout the film. However, it occasionally trips over its feet due to a narrative that we’ve seen before. Most of the action is set against a mountain backdrop, creating a limited scenic panorama and diminishing the audience's emotional involvement. The film somehow feels claustrophobic at times, even when it isn’t
The script uses the familiar narrative device of Shaolin monks resisting autocratic rulers, creating a bond of empathy between viewers and characters trapped in a struggle. Every confrontation scene showcases the film's solid choreography, while an underlying romantic subplot furthers the story. BURNING PARADISE trades flamboyant stunts for the raw essence of martial arts, creating an intensely authentic atmosphere. While there are instances of intricate fight choreography, the film overall leans towards a more straightforward approach. Moments of violence, such as beheadings and mass graves, are at the movie's core without holding back.
BURNING PARADISE sometimes suffers from uneven pacing, with certain sections feeling drawn out and disrupting the overall rhythm. A meandering plot punctuated by dashes of humor, sporadic fight scenes, and distressing episodes of torture within the temple's bowels struggles to keep the narrative momentum going even though it manages to regroup and salvage some cohesion towards the end.
In conclusion, BURNING PARADISE carves a distinctive niche in action films from Hong Kong. It successfully weaves a tapestry of high-stakes action, stark visuals, and just the right amount of humor, delivering a cinematic experience that grips and engages viewers.
Limited Edition O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Darren Wheeling [2000 copies]
1080p HD presentation on Blu-ray from a 2K restoration of the films’ original 35mm camera negative
Cantonese and English audio options (both in their original mono presentations)
Optional English Subtitles, newly translated for this release
Brand new feature-length audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival)
Archival Interview with Tsui Hark
Original theatrical trailer
A Limited Edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing by James Oliver [2000 copies]
**All Extras subject to change
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[photo courtesy of EUREKA!]