Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wicked City

  I haven't seen very many direct adaptations of comic books or anime that remain painstakingly faithful to the source material. In that vein, Watchmen might still be the best, but The Wicked City tries it damndest to create a movie which feels, plays, and looks like the anime flick on which it's based.  It stumbles quite alot, in regards to casting, and plotting- and most certainly dialog. Yet it captures the morbid and erotic atmosphere of the anime in spades. It also does so sans sex, nudity, and gore. Everything is more innuendo than anything, and while there is plenty of action and violence, there's no bone-crushing gore like in the anime. Which... was kinda disheartening but not necessarily a detractor. Overall, The Wicked City is pretty good if you liked the anime. If not, sad to say, you might be insanely lost in the chaotic story on display.

  For some reason the creatures are now called "Reptoids"? Which in my opinion... sounds stupid. They make lots of little changes like that, and instead of being called "Blackguards" they're called Anti-Reptoid Special Police. Good god, way to make something ungainly and dorky. Now, I may be losing something in translation here, because the only copy I could get my hands on was a dubbed VHS copy. According to wikipedia, the creatures are actually called "Rapters" but they're never actually called that in the movie. Which is a shame, because that sounds cooler than fuckin' "Reptoids". Ugh. Sounds like an old Atari game or something.  Also, there's this really shitty voiceover which unloads SO much exposition on you at such an unrelenting rate, you'll be lucky if you remember any of the essential information you were supposed to pick up on in it. It's not just tacky, it's hard to focus on.

  In the anime, it was done in an almost neo-noir style. The guy had a deep voice, and he talked slow. The actor playing the lead in this movie doesn't look like he'd have a deep voice. He looks like an office nerd. No offence guy, but seriously. You're no Dirty Harry type. Big surprise then when the voice actor who dubbed his lines into English has a rather wimpy sounding voice as well.  And they say reptoid alot. It gets annoying.
"Ah! A reptoid!" "Stay away from the reptoid!" "Reptoids!" "Liquid reptoids!" "Evil reptoids!" "More reptoids!" "REPTOIDS!" Ugh. If I never hear that word again, it might be too soon. Between that and the characters loudly exclaiming everything they're actually doing, like... "I'm firing my gun at him!" "I'm going to jump now!" "Get out of here, we're going to get out of here!" It gets really annoying.

  Fortunately, the movie's atmosphere and special effects make this feel like a dream. From one dark seedy location to the next, the intense shadows and lighting give this film an almost nightmarish quality. Like a fever dream full of bizarre things. The story is almost impossible to follow, I don't know if it was complex or thread bare because it was so hard to follow. There's stuff about reptoids controlling our economy? Then something about a drug? And energy stuff? I really really don't know. I was only along for the ride, but boy, what a ride it was! Full of shootouts ripped from the annals of hong kong actioners, mixed with the craziest mutant effects that would make David Cronenberg green with envy, and crazy off the wall Matrix-ish special effects, The Wicked City may not be the most cohesive movie, but it knows how to entertain!

  When they stop stopping to dole out pointless exposition, things explode, creatures battle, things get crazy and it's hard not to love it a little bit. There's something funnily endearing about how damn serious all the actors are taking this. Each one looks like he's seriously pining for an Oscar nomination. As if. Yet, it's so much fun. It's fun on a stick. It's a sleek looking fast paced sci-fi actioner, that truth be told, probably sounds better in it's native language. As it is, it makes for an excellent companion piece to the anime movie. Because honestly, it gets more right than not. Some key characters, relationships, certain special effects, and action scenes- they all are crazy accurate. The spirit of the anime movie is definitely here. Things have been shuffled around, but the core is the same. So much the same, that this could be called a rather successful adaptation.

  If you want something unrelentingly weird and awesome, this is it. It's a little known gem that kept my attention throughout with plenty of interesting locations, zany action scenes, melodrama, and a healthy dose of good ol' fashioned shooting, in the way only an associate of John Woo can pull off. After all, producer Tsui Hark also produced The Killer. If that doesn't convince you to watch this movie, then not much can. It's lots of fun if you can get into it. I liked it, it was a blind-buy, albeit on VHS for only $2 (minus shipping and handling) but it was worth it and I'm glad I own it.

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