City Under Siege (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
December 17, 2011 by Dennis Amith
Filmmaker Benny Chan (“Gen-X Cops”, “Divergence”, “New Police Story”) and actor Aaron Kwok reunite in a sci-fi action film about one man’s fight against a group of superhuman mutants. “City Under Siege” is a very cheesy film that may please fans of unusual HK popcorn action films!
© 2011 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: City Under Siege
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 111 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9 HD Native), Dolby TrueHD Cantonese 5.1, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment
RATED: TV 14
Release Date: December 13, 2011
Directed by Benny Chan
Screenplay by Benny Chan, Chi-man Ling
Producer: Benny Chan
Executive Producer: Daniel Lam
Music by Anthony Chue
Cinematography by Anthony Pun
Edited by Benny Chan, Sing Yan Chan
Production Design by William Chang
Colin Chou as Zhang Dachu
Chrissie Chow as Youyou
Aaron Kwok as Sunny
Shu Qi as Angel
Nan Tie as Liu Zhenxing
Jacky Wu as Sun Hao
Terence Yin as Kai
Jingchu Zhang as Chenge Xiuhua
Sunny, a lowly circus clown, dreams of following in his father’s footsteps by perfecting the lethal Flying Dagger technique. That dream seemingly dies the night a group of bullies force Sunny into a mysterious cave where an abandoned military experiment turns them all into mutants! Suddenly bestowed with superhuman strength, Sunny finally has the power to master his father’s technique and defend the city against his fellow horribly disfigured mutants!
Filmmaker Benny Chan is known for his action films. From “Gen X Cops”, “New Police Story”, “Divergence”, “Invisible Target” to name a few, when it comes to action films, viewers know that they will be watching a film with plenty of action, guns and martial arts.
With the 2010 film “City Under Siege”, the film reunites Benny Chan with actor Aaron Kwok who worked together in the 2005 film “Divergence”.
And for actor/singer Aaron Kwok (“Divergence”, “The Storm Riders”, “And I Hate You So”), it’s another film for the actor to take on a new type of character role that he has never done and sure enough, “City Under Siege” is a film that can be described as “over-the-top” as Kwok plays a half mutant (more like “zombie”)/half human gifted with superhuman abilities.
“City Under Siege” begins with a story taking place in World War II. The Japanese are experimenting on foreigners and trying to use a chemical to make them superhuman but also controllable zombies. During the experiment, everything works according to plan but the mutant dies not long after. The Japanese are upset that the Chinese scientists are unable to fix the issue and not long after, they are bombed during an air raid and the chemicals are all buried within the cave.
Fastforward to the present time. Aaron Kwok plays the character of Sunny, a man who was once an orphaned child of a knife throwing master that was part of the circus. His uncle takes him in and because the uncle and most people in the circus see Sunny as a misfit, they make him perform as a clown. But Sunny just wants to show them that his father taught him to also be an expert knife thrower.
The problem is that Sunny tends to diverge from the act and wants to be a knife thrower (without asking permission to do so) and thus, Zhang Dachu (played by Collin Chou, “The Matrix Reloaded”, “The Matrix Revolutions”, “Fearless”), who is an expert knife thrower, tends to step in and make sure that Sunny doesn’t disgrace the circus performers.
His fellow circus performers are disgusted by Sunny that they tie him up, so he doesn’t cause any problems and his uncle reminds him that he is nothing but a loser, which saddens Sunny.
One day, Zhang Dachu and a few other circus performers leave the circus site to view a group of people who have found a map to hidden treasure inside a cave. Supposedly, this cave holds gold bars that were left behind by the Japanese back in World War II. The circus performers feel that this is their opportunity to be rich and no longer be part of the circus ever again.
The circus performers manage to beat up the treasure hunters but Sunny, who is spying on them, manages to fall from the trail and is discovered by the circus performers. Zhang Dachu and the others feel this is their opportunity to get rid of Sunny.
As they investigate the cave, they manage to find these locked pots. When Sunny opens one of them, inside are gold bars. Now the circus performers feel they are rich and Zhang gives the order to one of the circus performers to kill Sunny.
As the circus performer takes Sunny out of the cave, the circus performers open the other locked pots and the chemical agent that was used back in World War II is let out and is inhaled by everyone. For Sunny, he is being strangled by the performer but because of the chemical agent, he manages to kick out but accidentally knocks the other performer who falls from a high area and dies.
As Sunny makes it out of the cave, the others inside the cave begin to mutate.
Sunny mutates as well but into a heavy set man. While walking towards the roadside, he is picked up by a reporter named Angel (played by Shu Qi, “Millennium Mambo”, “For Bad Boys Only”, “Skyline Cruisers”). She is very kind to Sunny and Sunny tries to explain that he is very skinny but she laughs it out, thinking he’s just joking around and drops him off at home.
Sunny doesn’t know what has happened to his body but by the next morning, he is back to normal. Meanwhile, the other circus performers who have mutated, have not turned back to normal. They begin using their superhuman abilities to rob banks and cause mayhem in the city.
As for angel, she learns that she is being replaced as a reporter by a younger host and is quite upset about the matter. When she and her camera men go out to cover a story of a hostage situation in which a deranged man is holding a female police officer captive, Sunny happens to be in the area.
Sunny appears to have extremely great vision and can see the hostage situation happening as if it was close by. And he manages to run into Angel and tries to tell her that he was the fat guy she picked up earlier but of course, she doesn’t believe him.
As they watch from afar, Sunny can see that the deranged man from far away is about to kill the police officer. Thinking quickly, Sunny wants to show off his knife throwing experience and grabs a stick and flings it towards the deranged man from a far distance. The stick flies through, goes through a window, breaks the deranged mans gun and impales his hand and essentially, Sunny rescues the police officer.
When the police officers wonder who threw the stick, all the news cameras look back and see Sunny. Sunny has become a hero and knowing this is a big scoop for her career, Angel takes Sunny and they both escape from the media and asks if she can get an exclusive interview from Sunny.
Meanwhile, Sunny’s former circus mates who have mutated, see the news and are angered that Sunny has not mutated and want to kill him. So, the group goes after Sunny and tries to attack him while he is doing his interview with Angel. But out of nowhere, two talented cops, Sun Hao (played by Jacky Wu, “Twins Mission”, “Fatal Contact”, “Drunken Monkey”) and his fiance Cheng Xiuhua (played by Jingchu Zhang, “Rush Hour 3”, “Seven Swords”, “Night and Fog”) come out of nowhere and begin fighting with the mutants.
While the mutants are more than they can handle, one mutant tries to hurt Sunny and when Sunny becomes over-angered, he begins to mutate with incredible strength and manages to unleash a fury of sharp objects that manages to kill one of the mutants and easily making the others mutants wanting to escape.
When Sunny is taken in by police for observation, they learn that he possesses an anti-body to make him suppress him become a mutant but still managing to retain his superhuman abilities. Because he is looked at as a hero in public, Angel steps in to become his promoter and becomes his consultant that will help the image of the police department. Meanwhile, Sun Hao and Cheng Xiuhua are the officers assigned to protect him. This bugs Cheng because she and Sun are supposed to get married and she very much wants this wedding to happen, but for Sun…he thrives on the action.
But as Sunny becomes a star in the media, this angers the mutants who now want more than anything to kill him and anyone around him.
“City Under Siege” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1) and the film looks absolutely great on Blu-ray. Colors are vibrant, the detail of the visual effects on the mutants veins are good but makeup design can often look cheesy. While closeups do not show skin pores or that much detail, primarily detail is scene on clothing and objects. I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts. Overall, skintones are natural, black levels are very good and picture quality is great!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“City Under Siege” is presented in Cantonese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and is presented with English subtitles. As all Asian films that I watch, I prefer not to watch the English dub track but for those who prefer it, there is an English dub track included and the fact that FUNimation is well-known for their voice actors that they hire, I would think that fans of these English voice actors should have no problem with them.
One thing I have learned about Benny Chan films in the past is that he loves to utilize audio when it comes to weapons firing and in this case, he continues doing that through the many intense action sequences. May it be punches, the whizzing of knives being thrown, explosions…you name it! So, the film does have great use of the surround channels but would have been great if the rear surround channels were utilized as well.
But overall, the the lossless audio track features crystal clear dialogue and good use of surround channels and some LFE during those action-intense sequences.
“City Under Siege” comes with the following special features:
- Making of City Under Siege – (22:14) Behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and director.
- Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “City Under Siege”.
I am a big fan of Benny Chan films, from “Gen-X Cops” to “New Police Story” and “Divergence”, when it comes to popcorn action films for HK cinema, he has done a pretty solid job with many of his films.
For “City Under Siege”, although I felt the concept was rather intriguing, the problem is that there is a high-level of cheesiness that I have never seen in his films prior and depending on the viewer, they will either not care or be bothered by it.
The problem with the film is that it tries to incorporate too much. For one, it’s an action film but also tries to be a comedy with Sunny’s awkward and naive behavior. Especially when he mutates into a fat figure and tries to convince Angel that he is actually skinny.
You also get this mix of “Resident Evil” meets the “Incredible Hulk” type of storyline with the zombie mutations and then you get this love story that comes out of nowhere between two police officers, who end up becoming the emotional catalyst of the film despite not having a major impact in the film earlier on.
The mutations also don’t look menacing but more comical. While the black veins that show up before the mutation was quite interesting to see, the actual mutations itself look very B-movie-ish that I wish there was better planning on making these mutants much more menacing (they look more like aliens from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”).
But still, the film is carried by its top star Aaron Kwok and actress Shu Qi and its over-the-top action. While it was great to see these two together in a film, I would love to seem them again in a more serious film or perhaps a romantic comedy. I have watched these two in HK films for a long time and they both look incredible onscreen as they did over a decade ago.
The action sequences definitely look cool, the fighting choreography was very well-done and overall, when you watch a Benny Chan film, you expect solid action and as far as the action is concerned, those sequences are the best parts of the film.
The Blu-ray release definitely has great picture and audio quality, you do get a making-of special feature and theatrical trailer and also a DVD version of the film is included.
As for the film, “City Under Siege” is definitely Benny Chan’s most ambitious film that tries to blend in action and sci-fi elements with comedy but I felt the screenplay was fairly weak, the visual effects of the mutations were also not as menacing and there were many cheesy moments that made this action film too kitschy for my tastes. While zombie/mutation films are nothing new for HK films, I felt I enjoyed films such as “Bio-Zombie” (1998) and “Bio-Cops” (2000) much more!
And I really wanted to enjoy this movie because I am a big fan of Benny Chan and Aaron Kwok films.
Overall, “City Under Siege” is a decent popcorn action film but for a Benny Chan film, the cheesiness was at its all time-high and didn’t go well for me. If you love HK action films and want something different, “City Under Siege” may be for you!
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