Wild City (Ringo Lam, 2015)

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After more than a decade of semi-retirement, legendary director Ringo Lam returns to the big screen with a thriller that hearkens back to the golden age of the Hong Kong crime film. Lam made his mark in the late 80s and early 90s with a series of action films, gritty, ultra-violent and grounded in a darkly pessimistic view of human nature and Hong Kong’s future, movies where everything seemed to be, as many of their titles indicate, ‘on fire’. Rejecting the aspiration toward transcendence of John Woo, or the narrative and thematic ambition of Tsui Hark, Lam’s films best captured the nihilistic urge for chaos at the heart of the Hong Kong New Wave. That particular moment, an apocalyptic age when the prospect of the Handover to the Mainland hung over every aspect of Hong Kong life, had dissipated by the late 90s, when Lam had joined Woo and Tsui in scraping together Hollywood products beneath their talent level (as fine as many of their American films are, and many of them are quite good, I don’t think this point is debatable). When he tired of that, he walked away to spend more time with his family. His only film since the 2003 direct-to-video Van Damme film In Hell was one third of the omnibus film Triangle made with Tsui and Johnnie To in 2007.

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