Genre: Action/Crime
Director: Soi Cheang
Cast: Louis Koo, Sammo Hung, Richie Jen, Raymond Lam, Terrance Lau, Kenny Wong, Philip Ng, Tony Wu, German Cheung, Fish Liew, Aaron Kwok
Runtime: 2 hrs 5 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence and Some Drug Use)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 17 May 2024

Synopsis: Set in the eighties inside the dangerous and enigmatic Kowloon Walled City, which was a de jure Chinese enclave within British colonial Hong Kong, Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In follows troubled youth Chan Lok-kwun (Raymond Lam) as he accidentally enters the Walled City, discovers the order amidst its chaos, and learns important life lessons along the way. In the Walled City, he becomes close friends with Shin, Twelfth Master and AV. Under the leadership of Tornado (Louis Koo), they resist against the invasion of villain Mr. Big (Sammo Hung) in a series of fierce battles. Together, they vow to protect the safe haven that is Kowloon Walled City. 

Movie Review:

Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In could very well describe the twilight of the Hong Kong martial arts genre, which in recent years has struggled to not just find new blood to succeed such icons as Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Sammo Hung, but also re-define its appeal amidst evolving audience habits. And yet for those nostalgic of what the subgenre used to represent – specifically, hard-hitting fights and stunts done with minimal CGI – then this throwback from director Soi Cheang hits all the right notes.

Based on the graphic novel ‘City of Darkness’ by Andy Seto, it recreates the infamous Kowloon Walled City to tell the story of a young immigrant Chan Lok-kwun (Raymond Lam) who stumbles into the neighbourhood one evening after fleeing feared gang leader Mr Big (Sammo Hung) and ends up caught in the rivalry between Mr Big and Tornado (Louis Koo). That longstanding rivalry also involves Ritchie Jen’s vengeful landlord, whom Tornado works for, and Kenny Wong’s one-eyed mobster, who rounds up the trio that had many years ago defeated a legendary assassin Killer (Aaron Kwok).

As much as we’ve preferred to find out through the movie for ourselves, it has been revealed that Killer is in fact Lok-kwun’s biological father, and it should come as no surprise that his parentage will precipitate a series of conflicts amongst these elders, culminating in an epic battle that will pit Lok-kwun and his buddies against Philip Ng’s maniacal villain. Oh yes, this is ultimately a story of brotherhood, forged within the walls of the City that is recreated here faithfully and even painstakingly.

Though co-written by such veterans as Au Kin-yee (from Johnnie To’s Milkyway stable), Chan Tai-lee (of the ‘Ip Man’ franchise) and Shum Kwan-sin (of Cheang’s previous ‘Limbo’), the plotting is probably the weakest element in an otherwise impressive production. How much of that is due to the source material is unclear, but the midway twist – that Lok-kwun is in fact Killer’s biological son – is too much of a coincidence to be believed; ditto the extent to which Jen’s landlord is blinded by a desire to avenge his family’s death at the hands of Killer by ending the latter’s bloodline at all costs.

Once you get past these narrative weaknesses though, Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In is an absolute blast. Working with action director Kenji Tanigaki, Cheang stages a couple of exhilarating sequences that you’ll want to revisit a few times over just to appreciate the sheer brilliance behind the choreography and execution – that includes the opening scene on board a double-decker bus along Nathan Road, an extended chase within the corridors of the City when Lok-kwun first stumbles in and is mistaken for a troublemaker, a parlour fight between Lok-kwun and Jen’s landlord, a street fight that sees Tornado take on both Mr Big and Yung’s villain, and last but not least a rooftop brawl that is intended as a fist-pumpingly satisfying comeuppance.

Each of the above is meticulously staged and performed, thanks to Tanigaki and his team, as well as the commitment of the entire ensemble to ensure every bit of the bone-crunching violence is as real as it gets. Though Koo, Hung and Jen get top billing, it is Lam who truly wows from start to finish, being front and centre in every one of the aforementioned sequences. Rounding up the relative list of newcomers who also impress in their respective supporting parts is Terrance Lau, Tony Wu and German Cheung, who form a gratifying quartet against Yung. There is no doubt this is a passing of baton of sorts to a new generation of Hong Kong actors, and in that regard, each of these players acquits himself beautifully.

Just as outstanding are the technical elements of the film – from its art direction, to costume and production design, to its soundtrack (by Kenji Kawai, who also scored the ‘Ip Man’ films), no expense has been spared to ensure the authenticity of the Kowloon Walled City as well as ‘80s Hong Kong, not just as backdrop to the action but also as a tribute to simpler but also messier times when there was a strong sense of local community amidst rampant gang and criminal activity. Indeed, for better and for worse, this was the Hong Kong of the past, and is sure to inspire a deep sense of nostalgia amongst those who lived through the era.

All this would not have been possible without the peerless direction of Cheang, who recently won Best Director at the Hong Kong Film Awards for his offbeat detective thriller Mad Fate. Over the years, Cheang has proven his versatility moving between commercially driven and arthouse fare, and his latest represents an intoxicating blend of both, combining the primal edge of the latter with the crowd-pleasing qualities of the former. In particular, Cheang also deserves credit for successfully rescuing this film from development hell, and turning it into a labour of love for Hong Kong cinema as well as a new generation of action stars.

So even though it could do with a stronger narrative, Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In is still one of the very best we’ve seen of the Hong Kong martial arts genre in a very long time. The action is breathtaking, the mise-en-scene is one of a kind, and the themes of brotherhood and loyalty utterly befitting of what the genre used to represent. Far from being a twilight of the industry, if this is what a new generation can offer, it is in fact the dawning of a potential resurgence for Hong Kong action cinema.

Movie Rating:




(An exhilarating showcase of the best of the Hong Kong martial arts genre, this classic story of brotherhood and loyalty is also a faithful recreation of the infamous Kowloon Walled City and '80s Hong Kong)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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