Features Live Action Movies

Twilight of the Warriors
Walled in
(Jiu Long Cheng
Zhai·Wei Cheng,

Director – Soi Cheang – 2023 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 126m


A refugee steals money from a Hong Kong triad then hides out in Kowloon Walled City, a place as dangerous as the triads pursuing him – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 24th

Never entered by those outside, an uneasy peace has reigned in Kowloon Walled City a.k.a. the City of Darkness since Cyclone defeated ‘Dragon Head’ Liu and his warlord partner Jim. It’s Hong Kong in the 1980s, when refugees were flooding into the territory. In a nightclub where women dance to Cantopop, one such refugee (Raymond Lam) wins a fist fight competition then is conned by gang boss (Sammo Hung) into paying for a shoddily made fake ID card, which he refuses to accept when he calls to collect it two weeks later. Leaving the ensuing argument, he snatches a bag from the villain’s drug warehouse and runs hell for leather into the Walled City, where the gangsters won’t follow.

Inside, he discovers to his horror that he’s snatched not a bag of banknotes as he supposed but a bag of drugs. Trying to sell it, he finds himself fighting local gangsters, who don’t want him selling drugs on their turf. Then he’s found and chased by Cyclone’s motorbike-riding number two (Terrance Lau Chun-him), taking refuge in a barber’s, where he runs into Cyclone (Louis Koo), who bests him and lets him go with a warning not to cause trouble. Jumping over a balcony, the injured refugee staggers around the walled city’s narrow streets and alleys drawing attention to himself, avoiding Royal Hong Kong constabulary cops walking the beat by climbing scaffolding to seek safety in height until a kind woman’s voice offers him hanging from an extended hoe a bag of hot food, which he washes down with a bottle of soda pop handed him by a young girl. A masked figure tells him to go down two storeys and seek help from Cyclone.

To whom, when the refugee arrives, the bike rider points out that the money came from Mr. Big the gang boss – and that King (Philip Ng) and his men have been outside the city all night. “Anyone who comes into the Walled City is goddamned trouble”, says Cyclone. “Hand me the blow – what’s more important? Money or your life?” The refugee does so, and Cyclone, noting the man is injured, with stomach pains, instructs the biker to take him to AV (German Cheung), who turns out to be not only the masked figure but also a doctor who fixes him up and tells him, “in the Walled City, if you give help, you’ll get help back.”

The movie switches from an action movie to a drama at this point – there’s more action later on – as Cyclone pays off Mr. Big for the stolen drugs and the refugee, whose name is Chan Lok-kwan, slowly integrates into Walled City life. After an incident involving a prostitute killer, Chan and three others, including the bike rider Shin and 12 (Tony Wu Tsz-tung), meet up masked to beat him to death.

About an hour in, the film introduces a plethora of new characters and a sub-plot about Cyclone’s ill-health and becomes quite difficult to follow, but a revelation as to the true identity of Chan ups the ante quite considerably. The British announce the forthcoming handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese and the TV hosts a discussion on the future of the Walled City, which is likely to be knocked down, despite the numerous problems that would cause.

There are many pleasures to be had here – the action includes a fist fight featuring broken glass on both fists and the floor, a fight inside (and outside) a double-decker bus which is a clear homage to Police Story (Jackie Chan, 1985), a frenetic fight with a Walled City drugs gang in which number of heads are smashed into brickwork, breaking it, and a tremendous knife fight between Shin and Chan, the latter wielding a sharp shard of metal. He escapes into a barber’s shop, only to lose a fight with Cyclone, who breaks his arm. Koo tosses a lighted cigarette into the air, delivers some effective blows, then catches the falling cigarette between index and middle finger. “Need a little help?”, asks a seated, ageing female barber’s customer after it’s all over.

In both fight scenes and less action-oriented moments, the studio recreation of the Walled City allows for going up and down narrow balconies / walkways (think of the ladder fight ending on Once Upon A Time in China, Tsui Hark, 1991). The production design, some of which must surely be augmented by computer effects, is impressive here.

In short, this is a striking gangland thriller set in an extraordinary social milieu – the Walled City was later demolished – with terrific production design and stunt work as striking as you’ve ever seen in a Hong Kong movie, which is saying something. Strong performances too, not just in the action scenes. Altogether, well worth checking out.

Twilight of the Warriors: Walled in is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, May 24th.


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