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Review: ‘Wild City’ drags corruption through the streets of Hong Kong (Includes first-hand account)

There are a number of movies that begin with someone choosing to be a Good Samaritan. Whether they hesitate or immediately jump into action, their decision to do the right thing briefly or permanently links them to the person at the receiving end of their aid. Although in most films that use this as a plot device the kind stranger ends up in the line of fire, sharing the target on the other person’s back. In Wild City, this relationship is further complicated by a greedy brother and vengeful assassins.

T-Man (Louis Koo) is a former-cop-turned-bar-owner, who still can’t turn his back on someone in need. When he finds Yun (Liya Tong) drunk in a corner of his club and susceptible to the local riffraff, he brings her home to his step-mother, Mona (Yuen Qiu), so she can sleep it off. Meanwhile his cabbie step-brother, Chung (Shawn Yue), takes a shine to Yun and is shocked to see her kidnapped shortly after they meet. The brothers discover she’s hiding from a rich businessman, who’s hired a group of Taiwanese thugs to kill her and recover the briefcase she stole. It’s two against one when Yun and Chang propose they run away with the money, while T-Man insists they go to the police. But the decision is quickly taken out of their hands by the impulsive hit men who’d rather fight dirty.

There are some common elements in Hong Kong crime dramas that are generally expected regardless of their possible effect on the overall narrative or picture. The film is usually about two hours in length and a large percentage of that time is dedicated to developing the characters and rivalries, which some viewers may not enjoy as much as the faster-paced sequences. Nevertheless, even in this section there is the occasional confrontation with the enemy; and these encounters are still exciting clashes that often take place in busy streets or other crowded areas. However they don’t hold a candle to the final showdown, which in this case includes a jaw-dropping incident between a car and bus.

The female lead feels a little underdeveloped or perhaps miscast for the role when compared to her male counterparts. On the other hand, the overarching narrative is one of the picture’s more interesting elements. Most of the characters — good and bad — are shown to be pawns in a larger game; victims of the people pulling the strings around them. This aspect overshadows the reveal near the end of the film, which is not quite as impactful as it’s meant to be; probably because the events it could have influenced are long since passed.

Nonetheless, writer/director Ringo Lam’s return to the hard-edged world of cops and criminals who battle each other and their consciences is a piece of quality Hong Kong action cinema and Fantasia International Film Festival was lucky enough to host its Canadian premiere before the film even screened in its home country.

Director: Ringo Lam
Starring: Louis Koo, Shawn Yue and Liya Tong

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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