Ringo Lam’s “Wild City” – 2015 Fantasia Film Review

Ringo Lam’s first full feature film in more than a decade, “Wild City” (迷城) is about the corrupting influence of money – all the worse, of course, if that money is ill-gotten. As former cop “T-Man” (Louis Koo) puts it while speaking to his former thief stepbrother (Shawn Yue): “This money is on fire. We can get burnt.” And so they do as the pair come into possession of a runaway woman and a suitcase full of stolen cash, both of which they attempt to keep from falling into the hands of some very, very bad men.

Relying a bit too much on the Hong Kong cinema classics playbook (a playbook that Lam, admittedly, had a heavy hand in writing), one will likely notice variations on situations, settings or scenes in films such as “A Better Tomorrow” and “Fist of Fury” (aka “The Chinese Connection).  Additionally, the wonderfully chaotic mayhem of “Wild City’s” final act suggests – at times – the influence of Johnnie To.   This is both a good and a bad thing.  On one hand, Lam seems to have now absorbed the entire glorious history of Hong Kong action cinema into his own.  On the other, there’s a definite feeling of having seen all of this before.

Of perhaps greater distraction, however, is Lam’s frequent punctuating of his film with some rather silly digital effects.  These do nothing but cheapen his art.  While his partial adoption of the glassy, neon-lit colorization now associated with much of Korean cinema mostly works, his odd use of the metallic chroma key to signal flashbacks does not.  Similarly, his insertion of digital effects as scene transitions meant to shock or dazzle proves a particularly awful choice.

Still, it is great to have Lam back.  There are flashes of brilliance in “Wild City” for sure.  Lam merely needs to resist the corrupting influence of a digital toolbox.

“Wild City” received its Canadian premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival on July 25. The festival runs through August 5. For further information go to fantasiafestival.com.