Dry Wood Fierce Fire (2002)

Directed by: Wilson Yip
Written by: Wilson Yip, Gwok Ji Kin, He Gu & Yeung Chi Wai
Producer: Cheung Shing Sheung
Starring: Miriam Yeung, Louis Koo, Flora Chan, Wyman Wong & Joe Lee

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

From the director of the CGI blockbuster 2002 comes a romantic comedy?! Oh, it's just Wilson Yip jumping between genres again...

In Dry Wood Fierce Fire we meet Alice (Miriam Yeung from Love Undercover) who writes for a ladies magazine in Hong Kong. She is also an expert in Chinese herbal medicine and kung fu, something which was taught to her by her parents. The magazine is struggling though and the solution seems to be a merge with a mens magazine instead. It is here Alice meets good looking Ryan (Louis Koo from La Brassiere) and instantly falls in love with him. He doesn't like her from the start though but after an incident involving a sharp stick and Ryans behind they start to hang out more and more. It quickly becomes clear that Ryan only has eyes for a Japanese author called Michelle and he asks Alice to help him win her over. She gladly helps out but inside her feelings for Ryan grows stronger every day...

One could argue that Wilson Yip isn't suited for this kind of lightweight material, since he has shown more style and depth in his past movies. Dry Wood Fierce Fire is filled with clichés and it's content is no different than other romantic comedies we've seen. What Wilson Yip does though is that he makes sure the material rises one notch above other attempts in the genre and what he has created here is a somewhat crazy but also a funny and sweet romantic tale.

Yip doesn't try to direct with a lot of flashy style but instead holds back just like the content of the script dictates. He does insert some brilliant touches of his including a funny kung fu-fight with a bum (or as the subtitles say: a bump) and Alice and a very funny Bruce Lee-homage. Other than those kind of things he lets our two leading actors carry the film.

I for one fell in love with Miriam Yeung after watching her performance here. In the beginning she feels like she's too much to take when you see her kind of crazy nature. It's when her friendship Louis Koo's character gets going that she finds a good balance between the craziness and the sweet yearning for love that Alice has. I was concerned that all this would lead to overacting from Miriam but she does very well and creates a simple but very sympathetic character.

Louis Koo was very funny in La Brassiere and continues to show that here. He plays a character that is self assured and handsome on the outside but in fact he's very unsure of himself. Without Alice he wouldn't have gotten close to Michelle but even when he is, he has to depend on her to make sure he does things right. It's not a very complicated character as such but Louis contributes what he needs to and the chemistry between him and Miriam Yeung really holds this movie together well.

Supporting players include the Wilson Yip regular Joe Lee as well as Law Kar-Ying and screenwriter of previous directorial efforts of Wilson Yip; Matt Chow. These people don't get a lot of screentime so you couldn't really praise them like Louis or Miriam. But the scenes they are in doesn't hurt the movie and they fit well as part of the supporting cast.

When our director finds people he likes to work with, he tries to hold on to them as much as possible. In the past producer Joe Ma has been a huge part in the success of Yip but in this movie it's the director of photography from 2002 (Poon Hang-Sang) that gets to join the team again. In previous movies Yip has choosen a small bit of mixture between realistic lightning and different colour schemes. It wasn't always that the combination worked fully but here he chooses a simple and natural look all throughout the film instead. It's again a good choice because we don't want to be distracted by the photography when we're trying to watch our characters act out their adventures on screen. One person I also noticed in the crew behind Yip is awardwinning editor Peter Cheung, who has worked on every one of his movies since Bio Zombie. When you have a solid team like this, it creates assurance but also a very professional feel to the project.

I admire Wilson Yip for taking this project on. His direction is sizzling with confidence and he again shows what great performances he can get out of actors combined with his talent for almost every genre of movies. It's nice to see him directing a small movie again and Dry Wood Fierce Fire will have you smiling after the final frame of the movie rolls by.

The DVD:

Widesight's dvd presentation is pretty average but a acceptable release for this very recent movie. The 1.85:1 aspect ratio is preserved here and for the most part it looks good. There are only a few marks on the print and sharpness is pretty good. I felt that colours were a little weak though and I would've liked anamorphic enhancement also.

The sound comes in Cantonese and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. I'm not sure if the movie was shown in cinemas in 5.1 but regardless it's only an ok track. Music is spread out nicely but dialogue is sometimes a little loud and harsh. It didn't bother me too much but it could've been better.

The English subtitles are optional and contains a few spelling errors but nothing too major. There are a few moments in the film where the subtitles go out of sync with the dialogue but this doesn't last long. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

The extras consists of the theatrical trailer which looks a tad worse than the feature. It does feature a pretty funny outtake at the end showing Louis and Miriam cracking each other up. The only other extra is a deleted scene presented in widescreen but with no English subtitles. It's nothing much but I enjoyed watching more of Miriam's performance.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson