School on Fire


Reviewed by YTSL

At one point in this movie, we do hear the announcement and see the sight of a "school (being) on fire".  However, I think that it would be well for the (potential) viewer to bear in mind that the literal English translation of the film's Chinese title is a much more descriptively apt "School Turbulence".

Sarah Lee and Fennie Yuen
The school in question is one which is a crowded one building affair, many of whose teachers are past caring (one of them (Damian Lau) seems content to just instruct his students to conduct "self-study", another's punishments seem to consist solely of asking her students to write a particular sentence out a thousand times) and quite a few of whose students are not only academic under-achievers but fledgling Triad members, prostitutes and pill-poppers.  In such surroundings and circumstances, it is easy to see how idealism can be not only a luxury but also dangerous for those who possess it, and why a life of crime can seem to be such an attractive opportunity or natural option.
Victor Hon, Fennie, Sarah and Roy Cheung
SCHOOL ON FIRE focuses on the trials and travails of a "good" girl (well played by Fennie Yuen) who cannot help but get involved with the Triad, what with her:  best friend at school being a prostitute (Sarah Lee, who won a Hong Kong Best Supporting Actress award for her performance in this movie) with a Triad member boyfriend; attracting the attention of an out-of-school Triad member colleague of her best friend's boyfriend; and her father (Victor Hon) being a Triad member himself (albeit an inactive one).  Though it is obvious from when we first meet her that her life is already hardly a perfect one, her troubles really start in earnest when a fight breaks out between members of two rival Triad gangs in large part because of her and she naively does the "right" thing by identifying to the police (Lam Ching Ying and Tommy Wong) the perpetrators of a killing that occurred in the midst of the brawl. A very nasty Roy Cheung then begins to turn her life upside down.
Fennie and Lam Ching Ying
I have read somewhere (probably on the internet!) that director Ringo Lam took pride in creating -- and went to great lengths to ensure that he did succeed in producing -- realistic, if gritty, portraits of Hong Kong in his "on Fire" series.  If there is any modicum of truth to this assertion and his depiction, then this film of his can be seen as a damning indictment of Hong Kong schools and the British rulers of the then Crown Colony -- a fact which the viewer is reminded of by the film's musical score prominently featuring the mournful wail of bagpipes -- who allow(ed) the existence of such schools.
Damian Lau, Fennie, Lam Ching Ying, Roy, Sarah

My rating for this film:  9.