City Under Siege: it’s like the grand tradition of DC and Marvel that of version China

A sci-fi martial arts film populated by circus performers transformed into mutant freaks, how can you possibly go wrong? Benny Chan’s recent output included two very different films. First up was City Under Siege, the aforementioned circus action flick. And then there was the much different Shaolin, a more graceful wu xia film that got most of the accolades.

I like them both, but I think City Under Siege (Vietnamese name: Toan Thanh gioi Nghiem) has gotten a lot of shit for being what it is, a fun science fiction/action/comedy film. That is a throwback to ’90s style wire fu action epics. I’m really glad that FUNimation pick this one up, because they have a great track record with Blu-ray and this is no exception. This film at least deserves a rental, but I’m glad I own it as I plan to revisit it frequently.


Innocent citizens flee mutant marauders in this electrifying film from fame director – and frequent Jackie Chan collaborator – Benny Chan (Connected, Who Am I?). Featuring a star-studded cast including Collin Chou (Jet Li’s Fearless, The Matrix Reloaded) and Qi Shu (The Transporter). This thrilling flick packs a serious punch thanks to action sequences concocted by legendary choreographer Chung Chi Li (Rush Hour, New Police Story).

Sunny, a lowly circus clown, dreams of following in his father’s footsteps by perfecting lethal Flying Dagger technique.

That dream seemingly dies the night a group of bullies force Sunny into a mysterious cave. Where an abandon military experiment turns them all into mutants! Suddenly bestow with superhuman strength. Sunny finally has the power to master his father’s technique and defend the city against his horribly-disfigure fellow mutants!

I’ve seen many negative reviews for this film that fault it for being exactly what it intend to be, big goofy fun. I’ve also seen reviews that critique the actors in this film simply. Because they don’t like a certain actor in general. However, I think that City Under Siege utilizes its performers pretty damne well, especially those in supporting roles. That like Collin Chou as the main baddie and Wu Jing as an expert on mutants from the mainland, sent to track down the rogue circus freaks.

Benny Chan knows what he’s doing, and he intentionally made this film to jump over genre boundaries. He try to use as many exploitable elements as possible. His trademark big action sequences are jammed in here, they come one after another with very few pauses in between. This doesn’t leave much room for character development. But he manages to throw a little bit of that in too, between smashing cars, knife throwing, and basically demolishing everything in sight.

Aaron Kwok acquits himself well as the goofy, half-dimwitted Sunny, a circus clown who aspires to become the master of the twin flying daggers.

He’s play with a child like innocence that breaks down any time he’s condescend to and turns him into a raging Hulk-like figure with insane dagger skills. In a word, Sunny is simple, and this allows him the vulnerability to be sucker in by Shu Qi as Angel. She is an over the hill TV reporter who attach herself to the gullible Sunny after he stops a high profile crime. That from happening as her ticket back to the anchor desk.

It’s not only the two leads who perform well. There is a fun supporting cast to keep the action moving when Sunny otherwise occupied. Chief among these backups is Wu Jing. Wu performs the hell out of his role. He is ridiculously playing an expert on paranormal activity and mutants from the mainland.

Who also happens to be a martial arts expert, along with his sidekick/fiancee. They get themselves into some pretty hairy spots, which allows Wu to kick a whole lot of ass in a very convincing fashion.

The big thing that turned me on about this film is its unapologetic attitude toward the material. There is no attempt to make this goofball plot into anything more than it is. The characters involved don’t realize what a silly film they are in, but I think Benny Chan does, and his film works because of it.

All of the actions and emotions are over the top and ridiculous. Which works beautifully, because Chan knows how to make that kind of film. City Under Siege is big, dumb fun, and I loved it.

Nobody does Superhero films quite like Hollywood or maybe it is just the bigger budgets

But comic book adaptations have been exalted beyond mere pulp cinema to be exciting, dramatic and important films. Nolan’s Batman films and Raimi’s ’Spiderman’ films have brought a new respect to an often derided format. When other countries try to compete, the results look a lot like ’City Under Siege’.

The good news is that ‘City Under Siege’ is not ‘Kung Fu Cyborg’. It’s a rudderless mess, true, but it is also a little more entertaining than it has any right to be. In a year of abominations like ‘Future X Cops’, that really has to count for something, however minute. Starting as quite a fun romp with a few watchable gimmicks along the way. ‘City Under Siege’ does get afflicted with the ‘poor second hour syndrome’.

That other local blockbusters suffer from when they try to go beyond the requisite 100 minutes. Yet, after sitting through the aforementioned two attempts at an Asian super hero movie over the past 18 months, this reviewer is grateful for small mercies.

INFO:

Rating: NR
Genre: Action & Adventure, Art House & International, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Benny Chan
Written By: Chi-man Ling, Benny Chan
Stars: Aaron Kwok, Qi Shu, Jing Wu
In Theaters: Aug 1, 2010 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Dec 27, 2011
Runtime: 111 minutes
Studio: Universe Films Distribution Company

AUDIENCE REVIEWS FOR CITY UNDER SIEGE:

Dean M
Not a bad Hong Kong sci-fi-action flick, but it’s a bit complete mess. The lead character is insipid and uninteresting, the storyline is poorly developed, and the emotional subplots are laughable and unconvincing. Shu Qi and Zhang Jingchu aren’t bad in their roles, and some of the kung-fu action is decent. There’s also Aaron Kwok and his crazy overacting – and hey, if entertainment has a name, it’s Aaron Kwok

Jeam CK
“People may get lost sometimes, and even lose the ego”. I’m a fan of Benny Chan. He’s made some really enjoybale action films in the past, such as New Police Story and Invisible Target. His latest offering, City Under Siege, sees him taking on the sci-fi genre. All I can say is “I’m disapointed.” This is a nightmare of a movie.

Meaw Jonh
I didn’t think it was possible, but it somehow was. Here is my official selection for this years worst movie. There were plenty of contenders, and its not even the end of the year, but here we are. This is without a doubt the most cliche ridden, most ridiculously stupid, overacted and just down right retarded movie ever. Circus folk getting superheroes isn’t too new, but the way the trailer depicted it, it made it look like a dark, and intense action movie. Its the complete opposite.

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