For most avid Hong-Kong crime thriller fans, the name of Dante Lam is now a familiar one. The director, who recently made two critically acclaimed films "The Beast Stalker" (2008) and "The Stool Pigeon" (2010), also directed another crime drama between them. The film's name is "Fire of Conscience," a film you are looking at.
Leon Lai is Captain Manfred, a police detective investigating a murder case of a prostitute with his trusted partners Cheung-on (Kai Chi Liu) and May (Michelle Ye). Manfred's wife was killed on a tram two months ago, and since the tragic day he has been living in a minivan while he is off duty, trying to find the murderer.
Richie Ren is ambitious Inspector Kee. One of his men gets killed while chasing a gang of young thieves who stole his cell phone. To find the culprits and retrieve the stolen phone, Inspector Kee asks Captain Manfred for a small favor. Both police detectives, complete opposite in looks (but both born in dragon year), are involved in the same crime, though they are still unaware of that.
In spite of the stylish cinematography (with the impressive opening black-and-white freeze frame shots) and strong acting from the leads Leon Lai and Richie Ren, "Fire of Conscience" fails to reach the heights of "The Beast Stalker" and "The Stool Pigeon." It takes too much time for the convoluted story to be interesting, and too many subplots and characters are introduced. As a result some actors are sadly wasted, like Vivian Hsu as Kee's girlfriend.
The film offers one intense gun action sequence in the mid-section, which is worth seeing. The climactic fight scene in a burning building is not bad, but Dante Lam's attempt to include a pregnant woman in the set-piece seems overdone, even though it is thematically related to one of the main characters' past.
Though it is not the director's best, "Fire of Conscience" is a decent modern Hong-Kong noir film.