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".
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.
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.
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.
My rating for this film: 9.