Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Wicked City


   Here's another movie that's hard to believe even exists. I first reviewed this strange-ass little gem back in 2013, but I had watched an English dubbed version of the movie... on VHS. Now, I love VHS. As a format I think it's really cool, and I collect movies on VHS. It's a hobby for me. But, the English dub of this movie is a complete travesty. I get a headache just thinking about it, and I'm not really one to complain about dubs in general. Of what little anime I do watch, I watch most of it dubbed. If I had an option though, with most foreign movies, I will choose subs over dubs by default. But, with The Wicked City it should be a fundamental necessity.

   It's like a whole new experience, being that it's in HD, and has subs in place of that horrendous dub. I'd love to recap my sentiment about the dub, but instead I'll just quote from my old review:

   "-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 subs don't even saddle us with that word. In place of "reptoids", we have "monsters". Instead of "The Anti-Reptoid Special Police" which... sounds friggin' stupid, we have "Special Squad", which sounds WAY better. Anyways, enough about that. Being able to watch the movie without being hung up on the dub, framed the movie in a much better light. It's still melodramatic as all hell, and one of the weirdest movies I've ever seen, but it was also way ahead of it's time, and extremely fun.

   Granted, my idea of fun can differ rather sharply from that of your average moviegoer. The Wicked City isn't fun so much because it's good, it's fun because there's absolutely nothing else like it. It's aggressively bizarre, and almost perversely weird. Some of the monsters in the movie can transform into different objects- thus making a scene of a guy playing a pinball machine... essentially a sex scene. David Cronenberg eat your heart out. The movie gets crazier from there, it's climax involving massive jumbo jets in a duel, a sentient elevator, a skyscraper, a flying clock, monsters, shooting, laser-fingernails. I can't even accurately describe all of it.

   At the core of the movie, underneath it's rapid-fire editing, dialog, action scenes, it's neon-drenched visuals, and oppressively blue color scheme... there's actually a romance. A forbidden romance. The oldest kind of story is at play here. A member of the Special Squad falls for a benevolent monster, but neither side could ever understand. Obviously. So their relationship, such as it is, is nonexistent, but their feelings are still strong. They end up entangled in the same mystery as one of the monsters has been flooding the humans' world with a drug called Happiness. Which actually ends up incinerating the user from within. Why this drug would ever catch on is... well beyond me. (Oh wait, nevermind...)

   Anyways, the mastermind behind this plot is a maniac who wants to take over the world, obviously. So it's up to the misunderstood heroes to put aside their differences and stop him before it's too late. Only a small handful of the movie's characters get any development at all, but it seems sincere in the movie's own ADHD way. Seriously, this movie is so fast paced and frenetic that almost every line of dialog is hurriedly yelled. There's no down time in this movie. Even the romance bits are always set against a backdrop of mutant/monster mayhem and wire-fu fights. The anime seemed low key by comparison, and that's pretty hard to do, considering.

   The real gem of the movie is it's action scenes. They're absolutely insane. Men end up fighting monsters who can turn into elevators, clocks, giant knives, et cetera, et cetera. The female lead of the movie actually has lasers that sprout from her fingernails. The main hero has a handgun that could blow a hole in a tank. There's so many special and practical effects splashed in there with wire-fu, shootouts, and various other kinds of assorted craziness. Wicked City makes The Matrix look like it's running on dial-up. I admit, that's a fundamentally unfair comparison, but if you're looking for straight-up lurid thrills, body horror, and over-the-top sci-fi craziness all filtered through a Hollywood-esque process of explosive action set pieces and gushy romances, then you'd be hard pressed to do better than The Wicked City.

   It's a movie almost excessive with it's visuals and it's style, and it's equally insane with it's sci-fi concepts and it's action scenes. Words can't do it justice, or at the very least, mine can't. The movie is a dangerously entertaining bundle of relentless action, bizarre eroticism, and off-the-wall sci-fi. There really isn't any other movie like this, except maybe it's anime predecessor. Movies like Tetsuo: The Iron Man and it's sequels come close, 964 Pinocchio comes close, but they still don't match the refined insanity of this flick. It's special effects are rough but creative and improvisational, it's action is absurd and implausible, but well choreographed and fun.

   The whole movie smacks of being done on the fly. It looks like it's ready to come apart at the seams, it's moving so fast. It doesn't explain 80% of the ideas or concepts it launches at you, but if you can just accept what's on the screen, and not ask too many questions, you might just fall in love with this odd, weird, crazy, bizarre, sexy, explosive and exciting little movie. It's quickly become a personal genre favorite of mine.

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