Considering the Divine Constabulary gets to
investigate all the cool supernatural crimes, while Department Six is stuck
with the boring human cases, inter-agency rivalry is probably inevitable.
However, it becomes quite pitched when the leader of the former is accused of
murdering the commander of the latter. Everyone should probably know better,
but they have to admit the evidence looks pretty bad. Some kind of scheme is
afoot involving crimes from the past in Gordon Chan & Janet Chun’s Lawless Kingdom (trailer here), their sequel to The Four, which releases today on DVD from Lionsgate.
Based on the 1970s wuxia novels, The Four are
like Song Dynasty Avengers, whose powers are derived from chi. When it comes to
that chi, their leader Zhuge Zhengwo and the wheelchair-bound Emotionless have
levels that give them Professor X-worthy mental and telekinetic powers. Iron
Hands is the muscle, Life Snatcher is their Flash, and it is just a bad idea to
anger the lycanthropic Cold Blood. Yet, for some reason Zhuge does exactly that
when he appears to fire a steampunkish firearm at the werewolf.
When Cold Blood recovers, he demands answers
from his boss, who promises them in two days. Unfortunately, he is arrested for
the murder of Department Six’s Sheriff King before the allotted deadline is up.
To make matters even more awkward, another soon-to-be dead man claims to be one
of the Gang of Twelve, who murdered Emotionless’s family and irreparably
damaged her legs. Supposedly, Zhuge dispatched them all to their eternal
judgment at the time, so what gives?
Kingdom (a.k.a. The Four II), it
seems strange that the disability community has not vocally embraced this
series. Emotionless might have been the victim of a crime, but she is no
passive object of sympathy. In fact, it is arguably empowering and certainly
cool to watch her laying down martial arts beatdowns with the aid of Iron Hands’
prosthetics. She is particularly assertive in Kingdom, contributing some series highlights and compensating for
its conspicuous status as a middle bridge film, between the relatively self-contained
first installment and the conclusion that has already opened in China.
Regardless, if you like The Four (and we did), Kingdom
gives you more, while exploring the characters in greater depth. Anthony
Wong and Crystal Liu Lifei have some particular fine moments as Zhuge and
Emotionless, whose surrogate father-daughter relationship will be strained by
deceit as well as the truth.
Although Sheng Taishen’s Sheriff King is
presumably dead for good, he is wonderfully sly and slippery in his limited
screen time. Deng Chao and Collin Chou also solidly perform Iron Hands and Cold
Blood’s action roles, but Ronald Cheng’s Life Snatcher is inexplicably stuck on
the sidelines for much of the film. While the major villains stay behind the
Wizard’s curtain, former newscaster Liu Yan makes a memorable femme fatale as
Ru Yan, a rather insidious colleague of Ji Yaohua, Emotionless’s rival at
Considering how much
spectacle Chan and Chun put up on screen, it is rather impressive how directly
they keep it all connected to the human element. They create some terrifically
fantastical set pieces, including a Mordoresque prison specifically designed
for those blessed with superhuman chi. For wuxia and superhero fans, it is all
good stuff. Recommended especially for those intrigued by the Emotionless
character, Lawless Kingdom releases
today (9/1) on DVD from Lionsgate.
Labels: Anthony Wong, DVD, Liu Yifei, Martial arts cinema, Superhero movies, The Four