When comes to sci-fi action drama, everything that is made from Hong Kong are mostly terrible results. Take the recent Wong Jing's painfully laughable FUTURE X-COPS for instance, and you'll get the idea that Hong Kong film industry still have a long way to go to join the same rank of the Hollywood counterparts. But that doesn't stop writer-producer-director Benny Chan from trying to beat the jinx of that particular genre, and the result is CITY UNDER SIEGE, which also heavily touted as one of the highly-anticipated Hong Kong summer movie blockbusters of the year.
The story centers on Sunny (Aaron Kwok), a circus clown who dreams of being a famous knife thrower ala "king of flying dagger" like his father. But nobody has ever take him seriously, and he's often a subject of bully by his fellow circus performer, Tai Chu (Collin Chou), who is a highly-popular "king of flying dagger". During a treasure hunting trip in Malaysia, Sunny, Tai Chu and the rest of his gang (Zhang Bao Wen, Tie Nan) accidentally released a bio-chemical toxic that gradually mutates them into super ugly beings. Sunny, in turn, becomes mutated into a grotesquely fat person and subsequently finds himself drifting away back to Hong Kong. He is fortunate enough to encounter a kind girl who is willing to give him a lift back home. The kind girl turns out to be his favorite idol named Angel (Shu Qi), a highly-rated beauty of CSS news anchor. Meanwhile, the highly-mutated Tai Chu and the rest of his gang are now terrorizing the street of Hong Kong and embark on a series of crime sprees, thanks to their newly-gained superpowers. Enter Mainland supercops Sun Hao (Wu Jing) and his soon-wife-to-be, Hua (Zhang Jingchu), who are both specially assigned to deal against the super criminals. Sun Hao has promised to Hua that he will marry her once their assignment is done. On the other side, Sunny finds himself transforming back into his original slimmer self but also gains unexpected superpowers as well, including sharp vision and quick reflexes. He becomes an instant media sensation when he helps rectifying the hostage situation in the police headquarters. Thanks to Angel who becomes his agent, he is subsequently enjoying a taste of fame and success via commercial and such. When Tai Chu finds out about Sunny's existence, he is determined to avenge him for causing his brother's death and wants his blood as an antidote.
Likewise, Benny Chan loves to take things into overblown proportion as in his recent movies. The plot is heavy-handed and overlong with too many subplots that frequently drags the movie into a bloated mess. The horrendous love triangle between Sunny, Tai Chu and Angel is especially unconvincing, while the movie's cheesy moments (usually involved with Sunny's dim-witted antics) are mostly embarrassing results.
The cast, in the meantime, are strictly caricatures at best, even though there are times Benny Chan tries hard to put more effort on some of his characters to make them multi-dimensional, only to fail miserably. Despite in his 40s, Aaron Kwok still has the boyish charm to carry a dim-witted role convincingly, but his character is mostly annoying and it's really hard to take him seriously especially when he tries to emote a lot. Collin Chou plays a typical villain we have seen him countless times before, and he simply excels when comes to action sequences but looks terribly awkward when he is required to emote as well. Same goes to Wu Jing, who is best left off as an entertainer with martial-art skills rather than a dramatic actor himself. Equally wasted as well, are Shu Qi and Zhang Jingchu who both reduced into underwritten roles. Still Zhang Jingchu deserves a little praise for doing her own stunts in her convincing action-packed role.
CGI and make-up effects are average at best, and it's no surprise anyway. But the movie remains a fairly entertaining mess. Benny Chan is a skilled action director and that helps quite a lot to distract us from all the major setbacks. Thanks to Li Chung-Chi and Ma Yuk-Sing's dazzling stunt choreography, the action set pieces are spectacular and exciting. Among them are of course the stylish fighting sequence between Collin Chou and Wu Jing.
While this is hardly Benny Chan's among best movie by any means, CITY UNDER SIEGE is at least marginally better than FUTURE X-COPS and most of the like-minded genre that came before.