There ought to be a rule that says "Hong Kong filmmakers should not marry sci-fi with action genre ever". With the release of "City Under Siege", Benny Chan's latest action thriller with a sci-fi twist, it proved yet again that it's almost blasphemy to do so.
Heavenly King Aaron Kwok plays Sunny, a circus clown who dreams of being a famous knife thrower like his father. During a treasure hunting trip in Malaysia, Sunny and his fellow circus performers including Tai Chu (Colin Chou) accidentally triggered a bio-chemical weaponry that mutates them into super ugly beings. Tai Chu and the rest decide to make use of their newly-gained powers to embark on a crime spree while Sunny on the other hand is able to resist the rate of mutation.
While on the whole better than Wong Jing's horrific sci-fi action drama, "Future X-Cops", Chan's "City Under Siege" still has a long way to go as compared to the Hollywood counterparts. Audience whom are fed constantly by the barrage of superheroes adaptations such as the X-men franchise will be familiar with what Benny Chan is attempting to accomplish. The younger demographics will be enthralled given the popularity of Power Rangers and the in-thing of today's children television, Ben-10. All these bring us to one thing – the standard of the makeup effects here are tacky, cheesy and laughable. Seriously all the above mentioned win hands down in this department and what we do get in "City Under Siege"? Perhaps Chan himself knew of this shortcomings that most of the gags including one in which we see Sunny seemingly wearing (transforming into) Andy Lau's rejected fat suit from "Love On A Diet" is play for laughs. Colin Chou probably suffered the most ridicule given his extreme makeover sessions had run into too much overtime.
Despite this major setback, Benny Chan (Invisible Target, New Police Story) who has a track record churning out entertaining action flicks over the years is still an adept hand in conducting massive mayhem be it on the highway or high-rise buildings with his frequent collaborator, action choreographer Nicky Li. Obviously when it comes to action sequences, no one do it better other than Chan and Li with the nimble combination of wirefu and explosions. The various fight sequences populated with plenty of CG enhanced daggers turned out to be less memorable and engaging this time though it will still please the action fans seeing Colin Chou sparring with Wu Jing and so on.
Chan who is also one of the three credited writers tries to squeeze one too many subplots and clichés into the story thus dragging the runtime over 20 minutes at least. There is the ludicrous triangle love with both Sunny and Tai Chou falling for the same girl, television anchor, Angel (Shu Qi), the group of under-exposed villains and there is the tender relationship between Suan Hou (Wu Jing from SPL), a cop in charge of the mutant-related crimes and his wife/subordinate Xiu Hua (Zhang Jing Chu from Protégé). Wu Jing is a capable action star given his extensive background in martial arts but the China-born actor has not much luck in the hall of fame despite the years spent in the industry. And here he is again in a forgettable supporting role that requires nothing else except his superior kicking moves.
There's simply not much room given to Shu Qi and Zhang Jing Chu, two capable actresses if given the right role. At the end, both characters are simply disposable and Shu Qi is relegated to the typical 'damsel in distress' while Zhang's character don't really contribute much mileage to the story on the whole. Colin Chou (The Matrix Reloaded, Flash Point) is yet again in a one-dimensional, poorly-written baddie role that he so commonly portrayed in the nineties. Aaron Kwok who has worked with Chan on "Divergence" clearly is more effective as the naïve, innocent Sunny. The boyish actor has what it takes to be the charming leading man and also the athletic capability to perform the numerous stunts opposite his opponent, Chou.
By no means, "City Under Siege" is a bad movie for the masses. Again, it's another one of Benny Chan's signature, popcorn action flicks though it somewhat tries to include too much cheesy humour and clichés. Minus the sci-fi factor (i.e. horrendous make-up effects), "City Under Siege" actually can be quite entertaining