Besieged City

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 11/25/2008

Besieged City takes place in the Hong Kong district of Tin Shui Wai. On the surface, it seems like a decent place to live. It's relatively clean and bright, with a nice rail system and well-staffed schools. While the families that live in the soaring high-rises that dominate its' landscape could not really be considered well-off, they have enough money to afford a few luxuries like high-definition televisions and monthly subscriptions to World of Warcraft.

But behind the facade, there is a blitzkrieg of forces pushing the young people past their breaking point. They take solace in anonymous sex and gleeful drug use, which they hope will fill the void left by the lackluster (and sometimes overtly violent) techniques used by their parents to keep them in line. And it is the breaking of that facade which forms the nucleus of Lawrence Lau's gritty drama.

Chinese, and particularly Hong Kong, culture seems to be concerned with youth and the corruption thereof, and this has been addressed many times during its' history in the realms of its' filmic output. Most notably, the 1967 film Story of a Discharged Prisoner provided a template for many "troubled youth" films to follow, coming to fruition with John Woo's classic A Better Tomorrow, which took a decidedly over-the-top approach in addressing the ills of society and how they affected the young.

Woo's contemporary, Ringo Lam, gave his own take with School on Fire, whose stark and jarring mise-en-scene stood out in great contrast to Woo's more heroically stylized characters. In the mid-1990's, Andrew Lau's ultra-popular Young and Dangerous series of "goo wak jai" (young gangster) movies became a mainstay of Hong Kong pop culture and influenced many Westerners as to how they thought of the gang culture in Hong Kong.

Besieged City strikes a medium between all of these influences and past efforts. It throws in the visual style of Woo and Lau's pictures, adds in the grittiness of Lam's movies, and then stirs in a bit of the 60's "social problems" films for good measure.

The individual parts that Besieged City is made up aren't all that strong. It does seem awfully contrived and melodramatic at times. But when Lau manages to mix all the parts together successfully via the very strong performances of the lead actors, it adds up to one of the better dramas produced in Hong Kong over the past few years.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 7