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Director Ringo Lam returns to form with 'Wild City'

Best known in the U.S. as the filmmaker whose "City on Fire" inspired Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," Ringo Lam hasn't made a feature since the 2003 direct-to-video Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, "In Hell." Lam did partake in the 2007 triptych "Triangle," but the state of Hong Kong filmmaking has since transformed completely. Fans will be thrilled that the auteur hasn't missed a beat with "Wild City," although he appears to be making the same concessions to the Chinese market as his contemporaries.

T-man (Louis Koo), a disgraced cop who now runs a bar in Hong Kong, unwittingly winds up as the designated driver for inebriated Chinese customer Yun (Tong Liya). The next day, just as his stepbrother, Chung (Shawn Yue), tries to tow the Maserati that Yun has locked herself out of, vicious Taiwanese gangsters abduct her. It turns out she's been lugging around a suitcase full of cash and gold stolen from a hotelier who plans to use it as a bribe to obtain a gambling license.

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While the film aptly reflects the reality of Chinese people from three disparate political regimes crossing paths, it mostly glosses over the language barriers they encounter while conversing with one another in three dialects. This isn't a Wong Kar-wai or Takashi Miike film in which multilingual conversations would be done for effect.

Hong Kong movies aren't known for subtlety, and here we have a stray bullet hitting a Themis statue and breaking off its balance scales. But the film's subtext of denouncing capitalism as a societal canker seems to be a mandate straight from the Chinese censors.

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"Wild City."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes.

Playing: At AMC Atlantic Times Square 14, Monterey Park.

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