'Twilight Of The Warriors: Walled City' review: A wild walled ride

Yes, we’re young and dangerous too, so give us our own franchise already. — Photos: Lotus Five Star

Twilight Of The Warriors: Walled City
Director: Soi Cheang
Cast: Louis Koo, Raymond Lam, Sammo Hung, Richie Jen, Philip Ng

Hong Kong pop culture in the late 1980s was a wild ride. Cantopop was ruling the airwaves, and movie stars like Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Stephen Chow and more were drawing crowds to the cinemas.

It was also a great period for fans of Hong Kong triad movies, with films like A Better Tomorrow, The Killer and City On Fire drawing huge crowds to the cinemas.

Twilight Of The Warriors: Walled City feels like that kind of triad movie, and it is not just because it IS set in the era. The overall aesthetic and script evokes a kind of cool sentimentality that makes you want to root for the characters, despite the fact that they are criminals.

A loose adaptation of the Hong Kong comic book City Of Darkness by Andy Seto, the movie is set in the iconic “Walled City” of Kowloon, which was an infamous crime-ridden, overpopulated enclave that was eventually demolished in 1993.

Group hugs tended to get quite violent in the Walled City.Group hugs tended to get quite violent in the Walled City.

It revolves around Chan Lok Kwan (Raymond Lam), a refugee who steals a bag of drugs from a local Hong Kong triad led by crime lord Mr Big (Sammo Hung) and his right-hand man Wong Gau (Philip Ng), and out of desperation, escapes into Kowloon Walled City, which is controlled by Tornado (Louis Koo) and his organisation.

Granted “asylum” by Tornado, who recognises his potential, Lok Kwan begins to see the Walled City as the home he never had, becoming close friends with a group of youngsters including Tornado’s second-in-command Shin (Terrance Lau), kickboxer and illegal medical practitioner AV (German Cheung), and Twelfth Master (Tony Wu), a streetwise, katana-wielding member of another gang.

However, things start unravelling for Lok Kwan when his unknown past catches up with him, forcing to choose between staying and fight, or running for his life.

The massages at this particular barber were rather punchy.The massages at this particular barber were rather punchy.

Opening in Malaysia on May 17, the movie also stars Richie Jen as one of Tornado’s superiors in the Walled City hierarchy, and also features Aaron Kwok in a cameo role.

The City Of Darkness comic book is a typical Hong Kong martial arts tale, with over-the-top characters displaying the sort of fighting moves that look cool on the page but, as Dragon Tiger Gate showed, would look silly on the big screen.

Fortunately, director Soi Cheang has chosen to tone down the more incredulous aspects of the comic book, though the action sequences still retain enough fantastical elements to remind you that this is indeed adapted from a comic.

The Walled City was a great place to play hide and seek.The Walled City was a great place to play hide and seek.

While there is a significant amount of action in Walled City, Cheang still manages to make us care for its characters, with Koo the standout among the cast, playing Tornado with the sort of cool, calm yet menacing demeanour that Chow Yun-fat used to be so good at.

The camaraderie between the four central youths also reminded me of the Young And Dangerous franchise in the 1990s, which was also based on a comic book and had a group of loyal band of brothers fighting for each other in the triads.

Ultimately though, it is the visceral, detailed depiction of the Walled City itself that is Cheang’s finest achievement here.

Same old Sammo, a big guy who is always carrying a big stick.Same old Sammo, a big guy who is always carrying a big stick.

The setting is full of character and personality – shockingly foreboding on the outside, but full of life and warmth on the inside; its small confined corridors, cramped spaces and worn-down rooftops giving Walled City a truly unique aesthetic and atmosphere.

You could say that the Walled City itself is more than just a mere location for the movie’s characters to live in – it IS a character of its own right.

The actual Walled City of Kowloon was demolished in 1993, but this movie actually inspired me to learn more about it. And the more I learned, the more I hoped that there would be more movies set in this particular version of the location.

Whether it stars the characters from this movie or not, I would love to see more of the world that it has built.

7.5 10


A hark back to 1980s Hong Kong triad films

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