City Under Siege 2010 Review: Benny Chan’s science fiction action movie
City Under Siege is a 2010 Hong Kong science fiction action film directed and co-written by Benny Chan. The film follows a group of circus performers who goes on a rampage after an accidental exposure to chemical gas left by the Japanese army in World War II, granting them superhuman abilities.
The good news is that ‘City Under Siege’ is not ‘Kung Fu Cyborg’. It’s a rudderless mess, true, but it is also a little more entertaining than it has any right to be. In a year of abominations like ‘Future X Cops’. That really has to count for something, however minute.
Starting as quite a fun romp with a few watchable gimmicks along the way. City Under Siege (Toan Thanh Gioi Bi) does get afflicted with the ‘poor second hour syndrome’ that other local blockbusters suffer from when they try to go beyond the requisite 100 minutes. Yet, after sitting through the aforementioned two attempts at an Asian super hero movie over the past 18 months. This reviewer is grateful for small mercies.
The skill of Hollywood’s best attempts at this sub-genre is to take the preposterous and make it human. Easy for a mass audience to digest. It’s the juxtaposition of very human frailties with larger-than-life situations that makes a production like ‘Spiderman’ click. Or it’s the ability to create a far-fetched world with suffocating realism as with ’Dark Knight’.
It wouldn’t be unkind to say that Benny Chan’s targets are not nearly as lofty and subsequently not as involving. The grand moments of drama lack resonance, copying the most one-dimensional ideas of the fantastic. ‘City Under Siege’ does become a monotonous procession of wirework action and oddball effects despite starting with moments of promise.
The first half hour implies that this might be a genuine attempt by Benny Chan to join the mass of directors of successful superhero franchises.
Yet we’re never sure who has what power and why, rendering the hero interchangeable with the gradually mutating villain. City Under Siege’ (phim hanh dong di nhan)plods along to something of an anti-climax after nearly two hours, never achieving logical pacing or suspense. It’s such narrative basics that prove the story’s undoing and no amount of bland fight action or attractive cast members can do much to redeem it.
Sunny is the orphaned child of a former knife throwing master. Following his father’s death, he is taken in by his uncle. Who allows him to perform as a clown in a circus. Since he did not inherit his father’s knife throwing skills. Sunny still wants to be a knife thrower, though. He is tormented by his cousins, who are all performers in his uncle’s troupe.
Many years ago, somewhere in Malaysia, when the Japanese are experimenting on some gases that mutate people. Their lab explodes, killing everyone inside.
One day, Sunny overhears a plan the rest of the troupe are making to explore a cave, rumored to be filled with gold. Instead of killing Sunny, they use him as the point man for their expedition. They find crates filled with capsules and force Sunny to open them. Inside the first are numerous plates of gold.
They then try to kill Sunny, and continue opening the rest of the capsules. Releasing the experimental gas which transforms them into superhuman monsters. In the chaos, Sunny accidentally kills one of the troupe member’s younger brother. And he manages to escape the group’s wrath. But he also gets exposed to the gas and collapses on a smuggler’s ship heading to Hong Kong. He was thrown overboard when the crew discovered him.
A few days later, Angel, a reporter discovers him in his fat form after waking up from his coma.
He was driven to a safe house somewhere. While sleeping, Sunny drains his fat and excess water. He later wakes up in his normal form, but finds out that he now possesses superhuman strength and heightened abilities. He tries to contact his uncle, but gets shocked when he finds out that his uncle was arrested by the Malaysian police for the incident while he was interrupted by incessant mosquitoes flying to him.
Meanwhile, several armored cars, banks and jewelry shops worth millions of dollars were blown and stolen by unidentified persons and several medical experts were abducted as well. A mutant couple disguised as detectives decide to investigate the matter.
Angel was fired on her own program for a newer one. While she’s walking, she witnesses a hostage drama. Sunny also saw the scene and uses a stick to disarm the hostage taker. He becomes an instant hero, but he blows his cover to his mutated former troupe members. He also became an instant star and endorser when he was interviewed by Angel herself. The troupe attempts to kill him for his blood, knowing that it now contains the antidote for the virus. The attack is repelled and one mutated member gets killed, but this exposes Sunny’s weakness to cold. The mutant detective couple decide to become Sunny’s bodyguards.
In one commercial shoot, he gets attacked by the troupe again, nearly killing Sunny and Angel. During which another member later burns to death. Sunny recovers while he is away and trains under the detective for the inevitable showdown between the two.