Besieged City

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Hong Kong Filmart/HKIFF

HONG KONG -- Lawrence Lau's ("Queen of Temple Street") return to filmmaking after a brief absence is a quasi-realist Hong Kong urban drama that thoroughly utilizes the conventions of filial conflict, gangland warfare and those unfortunate enough to live in a ghetto. "Besieged City" which unfold in the equivalent of a housing project rife with drug abuse, domestic violence and rampant delinquency, starts strong but is quickly overwhelmed by a melodramic pile-up.

As a social document, "Besieged City" should hold value for international and Asian film festivals, in the same vein as Herman Yau's "Whispers and Moans," but it is primarily a film by Hong Kongers for Hong Kongers.

Jun (Wong Yat Ho, a newcomer, as is most of the cast) is a persistently bullied high school student in Hong Kong's impoverished Tin Shui Wai district. He gets no help from his older brother, Ling (Tang Tak Po), and no relief at home, where he becomes his father's scapegoat when his gambling habits get out of hand.

When he's unable to take it anymore, he runs away from home and falls in with a motley crew of disaffected kids, led in large part by Panadoll (Wong Hau Yun), another Tin Shui Wai denizen with her own miserable home life. She and her sister, Yee Wah (Joman Chiang), share a history of abuse, and have a toddler to prove it. Panadoll's gangster boyfriend is missing a cache of drugs. When she turns up dead, Jun is arrested for the murder.

There's no disputing the troubles that exist in Tin Shui Wai, but by loading one tragedy or hideous turn of events on another, director Lau and his writers take the sting out of the story: Leaving Jun with nowhere to escape his batterings would be plenty. But Jun is beaten at school and home, winds up on the streets, becomes a junkie, then a dealer, witnesses a rape, takes part in another, involves himself in a murder conspiracy ...

There's enough here for a miniseries.

BESIEGED CITY
A Big Pictures Ltd. production
Sales: Mei Ah Development
Credits:
Director: Lawrence Lau
Writers: Frankie Tam, Dennis Chan, Leung Tak Shun, Chucky Kou
Producer: Dennis Chan
Executive producer: Li Kuo Hsing
Director of photography: Gavin Liew
Production designer: Yank Wong
Music: Jerald Chan
Costume designer: Steve Cheung
Editor: Li Ka Wing
Cast:
Ling: Tang Tak Po
Jun: Wong Yat Ho
Panadoll: Wong Hau Yun
Yee Wah: Joman Chiang
Running time -- 96 minutes
No MPAA rating
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