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  Skyfire Volcan-Oh No!
Year: 2019
Director: Simon West
Stars: Wang Xueqi, Hannah Quinlivan, Jason Isaacs, Bai An, Ji Lingchen, Shi Liang, Lawrence de Stefano, Hou Tongjiang, Li Yiqing, Ma Xinmo, Alice Reitveld, Bee Rogers, Makena Taylor, Gigi Velicitat
Genre: Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Xiao Meng (Hannah Quinlivan) was a little girl, she accompanied her parents on their scientific expeditions, for they were volcanologists who would investigate volcanos around the Pacific Rim. But this tropical island example was not as dormant as they would have liked, and as they separately experimented on its surroundings and insides, it began to erupt. Meng's mother was tragically killed in the ensuing explosion, but her father managed to survive, something she has never really forgiven him for in the ensuing decade because she felt he abandoned her mother, and indeed herself, in his panic to get away. But now they have both returned to the site, for more experiments, high tech this time, though there is a marked difference to the environment...

That's because Jason Isaacs has built a dirty great hotel/theme park over the volcano, which anyone else might have considered a bit of a risk, but he has been assured (by Meng?) that it won't so much as belch out a lava bomb for around a hundred and fifty years, so that's all right then. So obvious was this grand folly that you imagine if Skyfire had been made in the West, an element of parody, or at least self-awareness, would have been introduced, a couple of jokes like "Famous last words!" when Isaacs told us how safe his blatantly unsafe scheme was, but for the first half hour this genuinely played as nobody, not even the filmmakers, were expecting the island to blow. Naturally, this merely added to the entertainment value when things went boom.

No, this was not a sensible movie, but proved Hollywood did not have the monopoly on high concepts that were inherently daft and were willing to throw a small fortune at. The effects here were not too bad, actually, a shade computer game and weightless, but nothing too jarring: it was the stunts the CGI contributed to that would threaten the all-important suspension of disbelief. Once we had established our characters, including Wang Xueqi as the elderly father (somewhat too elderly to be believable as an action star, if you were being bluntly honest), we had our skittles set up and it was a matter of knocking them down, though more survived than you might anticipate had this been from the other side of the globe. Obviously, there was one character who had to be punished the most for his hubris, and his demise (not saying who) prompted perhaps the biggest laugh in this.

There were quite a few giggles and guffaws to be had watching something his corny, weirdly naïve in its faith in some very creaky concepts and tropes, yet weirdly endearing as well. Under veteran director Simon West's instruction, the big setpieces were what you would want, of the driving a jeep away at high speed from a lava flow while volcanic bombs exploded around the vehicle variety, and as far as those thrills went Skyfire did the business with a minimum of fuss and unconstrained by any form of reality. Quinlivan, a huge star in China and rising star elsewhere, was a capable action heroine even in a pair of eye-wateringly tight jeans that you might have thought would be an impediment to, say, jumping from one monorail carriage to another as Meng plans (but doesn't carry out). There were huge dollops of sentimentality ladled on at every opportunity, from crying little girls to the customary parental reconciliation at the finale, it had as much weight as your average platform game, and it wasn't going to change the world, but on its silly level, it was diverting. Music by Pinar Toprak.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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