City Warriors (HK 1988)

Rating: **
Review Date: 8/24/20
Director: Wang Lung
Cast: Dick Wei, Ken Lo, Carina Lau, Yuen Chor, Philip Chan, Wai Shum

A nasty Japanese crime boss murders a Hong Kong prostitute and dumps her body in the sea. A group of Honk Kong police officers stumble upon the corpse while trying to bust a jewel heist, which gives them another case to solve. Meanwhile, a crooked politician (Yuen Chor) wants to settle things with the Japanese crime boss and sends his top enforcer Tang Sai Kit (Ken Lo) to handle it, and a simple and naïve soldier from Mainland China named Lok Han (Dick Wei) comes to Hong Kong to look for his estranged sister, Ah Ling. It turns out that Ah Ling is working as a prostitute for Kit, hoping that they can save enough money to emigrate to America and get married. Kit and Han are on a collision course with each other, while officer Mak and his daughter Ying-Ying (Carina Lau) try to keep Han out of trouble and let the police take care of things. Naturally, everything goes to hell in a flurry of bullets and bloody beatings.

It's a rare hero role for Dick Wei, and while he's not a particularly good dramatic actor, his stoicism and quiet suffering serve his character well. Ken Lo seems fated to play sadistic villain roles (which he does very well), although he doesn't show his true colors right away. Carina Lau has a thankless throwaway role as a Hong Kong tour guide and has very little to do, and the film ends with a bizarre freeze frame of her face as a potential love interest. Yuen Chor does a fine job as a mean and dirty politician, and veteran bad guy Wai Shum has an unusual role as a cruel transvestite.

The narrative is clunky and disjointed, but the real draw is to see Dick Wei and Ken Lo in action. The action scenes are gritty, brutal, and violent, which is what makes classic Hong Kong cinema so entertaining. The jewel heist at the beginning of the movie is arguably the highlight of the film and features some marvelous stunt work. Ken Lo's assault on the Japanese yacht is another highlight, punctuated by a miniature pistol hidden in his belt buckle. Dick Wei's fight scenes are vicious and efficient, but his showdown with Lo is crude, and lacks style and grace. It boils down to just a savage beatdown, which is atypical of Hong Kong fight scenes, especially with talent of their caliber. There's also a lot more gunplay than hand-to-hand combat on display. The production values are decent and the film looks good for the most part, although it obviously cuts corners and uses some easily recognized stock music. The tacked-on epilogue feels forced and ultimately leaves a bad taste, which just underscores the "make it up as you go" mentality of the script.