~ (1992)
The Wicked City

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 03/28/2007

"The Wicked City" is the celluloid equivalent of Cheez Wiz, which to no surprise is why the film has a modest cult following in the West.

Some nice allegorical touches aside, this is [yet] another poorly adapted Japanese anime/manga given a Cantonese live action overhaul. The leads are fine, the photography is competitive, but Peter Mak's direction is amateurish and Tsui Hark's script resembles the popular anime of the same name in few if any ways.

Package this with a miniscule Hong Kong budget that fails to parallel the capital of animation with gross, cheap-o special effects, and "The Wicked City" is almost a complete bust.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/27/2005

Based on the Japanese anime Supernatural Beastie City, Wicked City is set some time in the future when human society has been infiltrated by an alien race known as the Raptors, a lizard-like race that can assume a human form. The Raptors' old leader wants to live in peace with the humans, but his hot-headed son (Roy Cheung) won't have any part of it. He wants the Raptors to continue their ways of killing humans and taking over key companies and governmental agencies to eventually destroy the Earth. In response to the rash of killings caused by the Raptors, an underground group of special agents have been set up to try and stop them. Jacky Cheung plays a rookie hotshot who has a particular distaste for the Raptors after his family gets snuffed by them. Joining with veteran agent Leon Lai, they are the best at their job -- wasting Raptors with no vengeance. Things get mixed up for Jacky after he meets a Raptor (Lee) that he falls in love with. He realizes that not all the Raptors are evil and has a crisis of conscience, especially when Roy Cheung steps up his plan with a slew of bloodshed.

To begin with, I must say that I admire Wicked City. While HK was being deluged with John Woo wannabes and slapstick comedies, Tsui Hark (who also produced the movie) decided to try something different and attempted to capture the feel of an anime in a live-action movie. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work. For starters, Wicked City has a very weak script. Little explanation is given for the plot and the characters' actions -- and when it is given, it's weak. As such, the audience develops no sympathy for the characters and really doesn't care about where the story is headed.

Another sticky point is the look of the film itself. It's well-known that HK movies' budgets are a fraction of Hollywood films, but even so, Wicked City just looks cheap. Perhaps the filmmakers took on too much responsibility in trying to create an anime style to the movie, something that was only really completed successfully in Hong Kong with 1998's The Storm Riders. At any rate, cheap rubber monsters still look like cheap rubber monsters. There are a couple of good-looking sequences (helped by some early use of CGI), but the film's low budget is painfully obvious throughout the film.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 03/09/2002
Summary: Average!!

Manga made movie, but it doesn't live up to the manga version. I think because it just looks TOO unreal in my eyes. Especially fighting on airplanes was just way over the top for me. They tried, but they didn't pull it off.


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/25/2002
Summary: Insanely ambitious, even by Tsui Hark standards

Effectively adapting a manga to a movie is never an easy task, particularly with something as off the wall as Wicked City. In 1992 Tsui Hark must have been feeling pretty unstoppable though, and indeed if there was anybody out there who had a chance, it was he.

Wicked City was one of the first HK DVDs I ever bought - with Tsui Hark writing and producing the HK version of one of my favoured animes, I had high hopes indeed. Sadly, these hopes were from met, and I was most disappointed on first viewing. Disappointed enough that it's taken me quite a few years to get round to watching it again.

This time around, my impressions are actually much more favourable. It's one of those movies where you have to be willing to forgive what doesn't work, in order to appreciate what does (and what it tries to do).

The attempt at creating a sci-fi world where powerful demons are at war with the human race is definitely quite a unique effort in the Hong Kong movie world. Spider-women with tentacles, a motorbike-monster, liquid monsters, numerous flying monsters (and humans), psychic attacks and an aeroplane joust are just some of the things that they managed to squeeze into the movie. The special effects are obviously quite dated now, but for 1992 (and particularly in Hong Kong) they were really very impressive. There's some reasonable CG in places, lots of latex and rubber, and plenty of wirework and camera tricks employed in attempt to make a world as fantastical as in the Japanese manga/anime. Some really creative efforts, if you forgive the low-tech execution.

Cinematography throughout is pretty cool - with Andrew Lau behind the camera and Tsui Hark on set, you get some very unusual angles and motions, and pretty much the whole movie seems to be shot through blue filters for that cyber-feel. The movie is quite bleak in tone, heavily melodramatic and quite cynical. There's a message in there somewhere I'm sure, and the monsters are probably a metaphor for our human failings or something.

The cast for the movie is quite impressive. Leon Lai is barely recognisable as one of the monster hunters, and Jackie Cheung is good as the other. In addition we get to see Yuen Wo Ping in quite a substantial role as the head of the anti-monster squad, and Roy Cheung as the leader of the bad monsters. Babe factor is high, with Michelle Reis spending a large amount of the movie tantalisingly naked (but always naked just off camera, or from behind etc), and Carman Lee in a dress that appears to have been painted on. Yum!

It's not a flawless movie of course. The script is weak on characterisation and plot development, and includes some awful one-liners. It's also a little heavy on melodrama - something that's reinforced (negatively) by a particularly annoying soundtrack. Special effects score much more highly on good intentions than convincingness, but even Hollywood hadn't really managed convincing effects by 1992. This could be enough to turn people severely off the movie - like grimes observes below, it's not one you'd use to try and convince an unbeliever of the virtues of Hong Kong Cinema. For it's intentions and ambitions alone it's got to be given credit though. And no movie with Michelle Reis *and* Carman Lee can be all bad :D

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: grimes
Date: 04/08/2000

Very secret agents pursue shapeshifting semi-vampiric monsters (or aliens, it's never made clear). This can't help but
remind me of Men in Black, though the two movies are fairly different besides this one premise.

The shapeshifters are known as rapters (that's how it was spelled in the subtitles, at least). They like to kill and eat humans
in various weird ways and they have all sorts of wacky powers, all of which fall under the heading of 'rapter vacuum', in what
I suspect is a particularly poor translation. These powers include flying, regeneration, making time move backwards,
teleportation, and emitting high powered energy beams, to name a few.

The rapters are supplying a new drug called happiness, that makes people super strong (and insane). However, if they stop
taking it then they evaporate from the inside out (I hate when that happens). However, there is an internal power struggle
among the rapters. Some of them want to leave in peace with the humans while others want to kill them all.

Meanwhile, all of the rapters are being hunted by the aptly named antirapter agency, which employs Taki (Leon Lai) and
Ken (Jacky Cheung in his role as the eternal sidekick). For some reason almost all of these agents seem to wear glasses with
thick black plastic frames, except for Carman Lee. Their job is somewhat nebulous (kill rapters, arrest them, what?) but
that's alright because one more plot hole just doesn't matter with this film.

The primary story concerns Taki and Ken's attempts to find the source of happiness and to shut it down. This is complicated
by several factors. One is the aforementioned internal struggle among the rapters. Another is Taki's love interest, a rapter
played by Michelle Reis. Taki tries to resist his feelings, with varying success throughout the film. In addition, the antirapter
agency does not really believe that there are any good rapters, and pursues them all with equal vigor, putting Taki and Ken
in a difficult position.

A number of things go unexplained through the entire film or are introduced later than they should be (the agents are all
psychic, for example!). That's alright, because there are cool special effects. A lot of them are reminiscent of the morphing
used in Terminator 2, though not quite as polished. Most of them look quite good and make for good eye candy (except for
the airplane. What a cheesy model).

The whole story has a very strong anime feel, though the actual plot is signficantly different from the anime version. I much
preffered the movie to the anime, which had too much rape for my tastes (what is it with anime writers anyway?). There are
a lot of good action scenes and some of the dramatic scenes are actually fairly good (although some are really silly).

It was funny to see both Leon and Jacky looking so nerdy throughout the whole movie (they always wear cheap grey suits
with their thick glasses), working against their slick pop star images. It's hard to really make any reasonable comment on
the acting in the film. The whole story was just so silly and bizarre that it kind of overwhelmed the characters themselves.

This movie probably didn't live up to what it could have been. Had the dramatic elements worked as well as the effects and
the action, Wicked City could have been a really remarkable film. However, it is a lot of fun, in a very Hong Kong style
(tempered with a bit of Japanese anime). Though this movie is not for people with only a casual interest in Hong Kong films,
it would probably be of interest to the diehards out there.

Reviewed by: leh
Date: 12/09/1999

This could have been SO great if only the script had been better; now it's some amazing set-pieces and little else. Worth seeing for the FX alone, though.

Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

Set in Tokyo, this is a Sci-Fi story about extraterrestrialshape-changers who take on human form in order to kill people. Neat special effects.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Based loosely on Youjuu Toshi (Supernatural Beast City), a novel by Kikuchi Hideyuki.

[Reviewed by Iain Sinclair]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

The plot from the Japanese cartoon version may be better, but the HK movie version has some great (and some not so great) hallucinogenic effects to recommend it. It's 1997, and shape-shifting raptors have invaded earth. Some (including Tatsuya Nakadai and his lover, gorgeous Michelle Reis) have decided to co-opt the human economy and live in peace, but others (led by Roy Cheung) want to poison the populace with an amphetamine-like drug that causes living beings to slowly vaporize. On their trail -- Leon Lai, half-human Jackie Cheung, and an elite corp of telekinetic warriors who can at least temporarily keep the bad raptors at bay. The raptors themselves are truly menacing movie monsters, and their transformations well-realized with fairly modest effects; the liquid raptors are like living glue, and there's even an evil shape-shifter who's part machine and who can be played like a pinball machine! Unfortunately, a love story gets in the way of the thrills, and ditto for the awful dialogue; but there's still easily enough good stuff to keep the easily pleased (like me) entertained for a few hours.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 7