Monday, December 23, 2013

Wicked City

  As a film lover, I try not to discriminate animated films from live action films. They should not be segregated. No more so than black and white movies need their own section. If a movie is Drama, then it should be under Drama regardless whether or not it's animated, or black and white. See my point? So then I view anime films, as any other film. It's animation itself is critique-able like special effects in a live action movie. Same thing to me. So now that's out of the way- I came across Wicked City, which came out in 1987 (if I remember right) by way of this wonderful little invention called the world wide web. No longer is one relegated to bargain bin diving to search for sleazy little late-nite gems like this. It's all right at our finger tips.

  When it comes to movies of a distinctly weird variety, I like them with a healthy dose of sci-fi, gore, and sleaze. In that vein, I should introduce you to Videodrome, one of my personal all time faves. Wicked City plays like a streamlined, action packed, way over the top riff on Videodrome. Kind of. They seem super similar due to their dark and unnerving atmosphere, one which gradually takes over in Videodrome, yet is already dominant in Wicked City. Wicked City takes only a few minutes to establish the backstory of this world. Our protagonist knows what's going on. He's not the guy who's on a quest for answers, like Max Renn in Videodrome. He's the guy who knows that there's a 'dark world' parallel to ours, filled with creatures beyond our comprehension. Some of them want peace with our world, and some of them want to eradicate all human life. ( -and like any good sci-fi monster... they can look human too.)

  The story goes that the anarchist monsters from the dark world are trying to sabotage peace talks that are set to renew a treaty that's kept a truce between both sides for ages. A "Black Guard" agent named Taki is partnered up with a sexy female agent from the dark world, and they've been tasked with protecting a mischievous dignitary named Mayart, whose presence is absolutely necessary at the peace talks. Of course, the evil monsters target Mayart for assassination and all hell lets loose. As does the movie itself! Once the ball gets rolling it's a good hour and twenty minutes of freaky body mutilation, monsters, sex, nudity, gore, mutant powers and good old-fashioned, hardcore, uber-violence.

  The creatures can't get hurt by getting shot or harmed with conventional weapons? No problem! Taki has a friggin super gun that'd make Dirty Harry feel the need to trade up. It's pretty awesome, and definitely a highlight of the movie. Cool guns like that are always a plus in movies with freakish monsters invading our world. Another cool thing is how relatively small scale this movie is. It's not an apocalyptic movie, the monsters aren't giant, Taki never has to pilot a giant robot, yet you get the sense that if our protagonists fail... all is well and truly lost. The violence, atmosphere, and characters in the movie seem to operate on a smaller plane of existence, compared to higher profile work such as Akira. It's a welcome change of pace. Things take place in cars, abandoned buildings, hotels and back alleys. In a way it also reminds me of Blade Runner in that regard.  The story is okay, but honestly it feels more like a vehicle to show off the animation skills. Granted, it's a very good vehicle, regardless. However, the concepts and ideas behind the movie are far richer than the movie has the time and resources to explore.

  I would've plunked down money for a sequel, or even a show.  The way they handle the whole 'creatures from another dimension' angle is actually quite good. I would've loved to see more. Wicked city is a rich city, thematically. It's begging to be taken a second look at. Yet, it's singular existence, devoid of spin-offs, reboots, or sequels, makes it something of a unique gem. I dunno if it's well known or not. I'd never heard of it til recently, and I'm quite a movie freak, so I'll assume it's not. There's always something special to me about movies like this. Those one-shot unique little movies that not many people know about. It's fun to discover and share. Also, if you liked this, I supposed there's always the live action adaption that Tsui Hark produced. Oh yeah. Looks pretty neat too. I suppose this sort of movie isn't for everyone. Much in the way Videodrome or The Thing isn't. For some people it's simply too gruesome, too weird, or too sexual.

  The movie is so sexual, it's pretty safe to say it's perverse. Yet it fits the tone of the movie. It's not jarring like A Kite was. The whole movie is seedy, sleazy and dark. It works for it. I liked it. I don't feel like it's super controversial at this point anymore. If that sort of thing shocks you, steer clear. There's alot of it here.
I don't know why sexual stuff in movies has always been more controversial than violent stuff. It's annoying and it's been much lamented and debated and well, now is not the time nor the place to further beat that drum. Yet there's just as much raw violence in this movie as their is sexuality. Basically this is a gold mine for hormonal teenage boys (or girls, if you're into that stuff. I wish more girls were!) and there's nothing wrong with that. The movie is well aware that it's pandering to that demographic, similar to exploitation films. Only the animation in this is so well done, it's certainly a cut above your average fare.

  The movie also kind of feels like a neo-noir. The main character has severely bad luck with women, and a penchant for narration. Scenes are often very shadowy, with the light source illuminating just the right thing. It's a nice style, and definitely reminiscent of old detective stories. So, with monsters ripping their way straight out of The Thing, a strange atmosphere not unlike Videodrome, and a policing force from Men In Black... what's not to love? It's a demonic, sci-fi, uber gory, buddy cop movie. Buckets of gore and loads of sex. If that's your bag, look no further. Wicked City has it all, in spades.

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