Action director Benny Chan (Jackie Chan’s Who Am I?, Gen-X Cops) wrote, edited, produced, and directed City Under Siege, a kung fu monster flick about a group of circus performers who are mutated by a super soldier gas developed during WWII. The majority of the performers exposed to the gas take on monstrous forms and turn to crime, with the exception of Sunny (Aaron Kwok, Convergence), our hero, who is tasked by the Hong Kong Police Force with stopping the other mutants. And Sunny makes an incredibly interesting protagonist. A hapless circus clown who dreams of following his father as a Flying Dagger master, Sunny does not possess any particular talents prior to his mutation, nor is he even socially competent. Sunny is more the sort of comic doofus you’d get in in a relief role than a lead. This makes his journey all the more exciting to us at the outset of the film, as we know that he will, at some point, have to man-up, stop being an idiot, and face his nemesis Chu (Collin Chou, Flash Point).
The appeal of Benny Chan alone will likely suffice to draw most any kung fu fan to City Under Siege, not to mention the presence of stars Kwok and Chou. Hell, that’s what drew me to City Under Siege. The Chan-directed Who Am I? is one of my absolute favorite kung fu movies. Unfortunately, while FUNimation’s release of the film offers the stellar video and audio transfers you’d expect of the distributor, Chan himself failed to deliver on this one as he scrambles to find a direction for the plot in the film’s latter half. The film builds to an incredible 10-minute battle at the mid-point, but thereafter loses all focus.
At the midpoint, once Sunny’s mutant abilities become public knowledge, he turns into something of a fame whore, making numerous public appearances and appearing in commercials for everything from bug spray to anti-diarrheal medication. This plot device certainly could have been incorporated in such a way that it would lead logically to the character’s acceptance of those responsibilities that comes with his powers. Instead, its inclusion effectively derails the narrative as well as the character’s progression. As if to rectify the situation, Chan forces a love triangle into the film’s closing half hour, which bogs down the final confrontation between Sunny and Chu with laughable results.
In short, the film tanks hard after an incredibly successful first half that, I should add, seamlessly alternates between action and comedy. As such, this is really a film for fans of Chan or the stars only. That being said, FUNimation provides the highest quality transfer possible with pristine HD picture and one of the most dynamic audio mixes I’ve ever heard. Both the original Cantonese track and the English dub are presented in explosive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes. Special features on the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include a making-of featurette and the original trailer, and the release also features reversible cover art, which is a practice of FUNimation’s of which I am particularly fond as a collector. So I give FUNimation an A+ on this one, even if Benny Chan failed me.