Screened at Golden Shadows on 28 October 2001:

It's amazing that this 1992 Tsui Hark production isn't better known, because Wicked City boasts a strong storyline, high production values and some of the most incredible fantasy effects ever seen in a Hong Kong movie. Hark bases the film on a popular manga title, Supernatural Beast City (HK film-makers always have Japanese audiences high on their agendas), but once the story begins to fire it changes dramatic tact quite quickly.

On the eve of the HK hand over to China, Hong Kong is under attack from rapters, shape shifting monsters led by a 150 year old businessman named Daishu (Tatsyua Nakadai). He tells his ever growing coven: "man's weakness is his economy". Rapters target areas of the world undergoing immense change or experiencing great turmoil - Hong Kong is in their sights.

When first released, Wicked City was seen as an analogy to the looming Hong Kong hand over to China. In the early 90s, Canto film-makers were busy feeding the paranoia of an already twitchy population. Today, Wicked City seems more of a cautionary tale about good and evil. How times change!

Ken (Jacky Cheung) and Taki (Leon Lai) are hotshot members of Japan's anti-rapter squad who have been ordered back to Hong Kong to help fight the increasing rapter presence. Both agents harbour dark secrets of having rapter backgrounds, especially Ken who bleeds black blood. Taki's assignment is to follow Daishu while he is in Hong Kong. Past events and people begin to shape the very shaky future of these agents and, ultimately, Hong Kong itself. High stakes equal tough decisions and HK's anti-rapter squad is led by the "sergeant", a stern, humorless man played by Yuen Woo-Ping (the martial arts choreographer for The Matrix). Wicked City is also Carman Lee's (Loving You, Too Many Ways to be No.1) debut feature in the role of "Orchid".

But all is not happy in the rapter camp as Daishu's son, Shudo (Roy Cheung in one of his best "nasty" roles), is vehemently opposed to his father's efforts to form a peace pact with the humans. Shudo has a shipping container loaded with an horrific drug called "happiness", which he plans to unleash on Hong Kong, eventually making the island a rapter haven. Michele Reis (Fallen Angels) plays Windy, Daishu's lover, and the woman Shudo wants as his own - but if he can't have her - he will kill her with happiness. Reis is often described as Hong Kong's most beautiful looking actress, and in this film you will see why.

Peter Mak Kit-Tai (All Night Long, Enemy Shadow) takes the directing credit, but the creative hand of Hark is evident throughout the movie, and it's quite possible Mak had little to do with this movie (it wouldn't be the first time Hark had refused a directing credit). With cinematographers Andrew Lau (future Storm Riders director) and Joe Chan (School on Fire, A Killer's Blues), Hark has produced set-pieces which are visually astounding, ie. a long sequence set in a luxurious hotel during a birthday party. The seven foot tall woman with time on her side and the mind blowing liquid rapters will certainly give the audience more than enough big screen jolts. This picture also looks fabulous, not since Blade Runner has the neon lit world of a modern metropolis looked so beautiful........or sinister.

Wicked City has a truly spectacular conclusion which features an explosive yin yang battle between Daishu and Shudo, atop Hong Kong's tallest building. Hundreds of metres below, the anti-rapter squad use their telekinetic powers in a last ditch attempt to stop Shudo from crashing a 747 jet into a Hong Kong skyscraper. The technical and dramatic imaginations involved in this stunning passage of film helps make Wicked City one of Tsui Hark's most memorable screen works.


Wicked City is a sensory overload of shape shifting,
exploding body parts and absolutely staggering
special effects unparalleled in any other movie.

This is gaudy visual spectacle at its inventive best.




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