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Film Review: Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In (九龍城寨之圍城, 2024)

Asian cinema; Hong Kong film

FILE PHOTO: Film Review: Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In (九龍城寨之圍城, 2024) © Ryota Nakanishi
FILE PHOTO: Film Review: Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In (九龍城寨之圍城, 2024) © Ryota Nakanishi

City of Darkness and Darkness in Film Art 

 

The production design of this typical Mainland-Hong Kong co-production blockbuster, Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In (2024) is undoubtedly successful in creating a Disney Land-attraction-like Kowloon Walled City where the entire British conquest of Hong Kong started in the past. This set far exceeds the inferior quality of the Kowloon Walled City set in Chasing The Dragon (2017). In fact, it’s the symbol of the entire modern age Hong Kong. On the other hand, like early Hong Kong filmmakers of the pre-and-post periods of the 1930s to 1960s, the nostalgia for the mainland, especially Canton and Shanghai, shifted to the nostalgia for the lost modern age, Hong Kong, which is symbolized by landscapes like Kowloon Walled City and Kai Tak Airport. Indeed, we are witnessing a new phase in the history of Hong Kong film. As we know, the golden era of Hong Kong films ended in 1992 and the present post-1992 or post-1997 issue is stagnation and undeniable gerontocracy, which are reflections of the rigorous corporatist autocracy of this city. 


Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In


Why is the Chinese triad so attractive to the capitalists of Hong Kong? Because the triads in film fantasies are personifications of lawlessness and absolute capitalism in 'freedom' anarchy. 

 

The centuries of tradition of The Chinese Triad or Triad Society is the deep center of filmmaking in this city, which includes financing and awarding via establishment. Yes, self-financing and self-awarding are done in the same hands of casino capitalists who control the establishment. Hence, in this film, one of the post-1997 malign, grotesque nationalism is implicit, not explicit strategically. This is positive and affirmative, yet the protagonist Chan Lok Kwan (陳洛軍; played by Raymond Lam) became a personification of the propaganda of the Top Talent Pass Scheme (2022-present). It’s where the nationalism required by the Chinese bureaucracy lies. The entire tale is a twisted hybrid of Scarface (1983) and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978). And the antagonist, Wong Gau (王九; played by Philip Ng) is a mixture of the antagonist, Priest White Lotus (played by the legendary kung fu star Lo Lieh) in Clan of the White Lotus (1980) and its imitation of "Priest Gao" Kau-kung (played by Hung Yan-yan) by Tsui Hark’s Once Upon a Time in China II (1992). Hence, the segmentation and James Wan-like collage of past films in a commercial way undeniably indicate that this is post-modernist film stuff which is in essence an aesthetic reflection of neoliberalism in the private sector of this city.

 

In short, in this film the government has no role in materializing any justice for the criminals throughout the film. Basically, all characters are venomous criminals, yet, the film prevails justice via the interaction of the Chinese triads. The main action line is simply revenge by Dik Chau (狄秋; played by Richie Jen), one of the landowners of the Kowloon Walled City, on the protagonist Chan Lok Kwan, who turns out to be a warranted son of his ex-enemy who assassinated his son and wife. If you only grasp this plot point, everything in this film will be crystal clear. The essence of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is shared with both Lok and Tornado (played by Hong Kong’s Matsudaira Ken, Louis Koo). The filmmakers should know that the storytelling is broadly indicated as mediocre, but it’s not the critical issue, while a story is just one of the narrative forms in contrast to the dogma of schools. The most important feature is the presence of likable characters. Are they likable to the audience? Why do we love Hong Kong films of pre-1997? The simple reason is likable characters. On the contrary, in this film, all the characters are venomous if not completely cold-blooded. Why do I love the 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)? The greatest Hong Kong film masterpiece of all time? It’s simply due to likable characters. Why I love Winners & Sinners (1983)? Simply because the characters are all likable. Aristotle said that violence and unethical actions can’t be excessive because they affect absorption of the narrative on the side of the audience. Then, what saved this film? It’s simply nostalgia of present Hong Kong citizens. That’s it. Personally, I only recognize pre-1997 Hong Kong films as what I mean to be Hong Kong films in my mind.   


 


 

Film Review: Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In (九龍城寨之圍城, 2024)

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