Adapted from cult Manga series City Of Darkness and boasting a who’s-who of Hong Kong talent, this Cannes midnight screening actioner brings the heat in dazzling set-pieces, inventive fisticuffs and a visceral evocation of Kowloon – the so-called Walled City that was a real-life hive of criminality and industry during the 80s. A stacked slum near Hong Kong’s airport, it’s a crepuscular warren of decrepit alleyways and mish-mashed materials that houses thousands of workers and a fearsome gang led by Cyclone (Louis Koo). It’s also the place that refugee Lok (Raymond Lam) runs to after double-crossed Mr Big (Sammo Hung) and his Triad goons. Penniless but tasty with his fists, Lok is taken under the wing of Cyclone – his shelter, protection and work unspoken training to becoming one of the overlord’s trusted men. As Lok rises the ranks via dust up with various assailants and household items, Mr Big attempts to storm the city, Kowloon landlord Chau (Richie Ren) seeks vengeance and psychotic enforcer King (Philip Ng) is out for blood. Kowloon is now a lethal powder keg and Lok will need to fight for his life…

Reputedly one of Hong Kong’s most expensive films ever made (budget: $40 miilion), Twilight Of The Warriors leaves everything out on the field in terms of inventive choreography, detailed production design and 80s-styled bang for your buck. Director Soi Cheang gives audiences a guided tour of the labyrinthine vertical slum (to the turn of Walking In The Air) so visceral one can almost taste the street food and smell the sewers – and gives each martial arts set-up room to breathe (while breaking everything in the room it’s happening in). Glass smashes into flesh, metal shards puncture guts, walls collapse, furniture is annihilated… and dropped cigarettes are caught in slo-mo during a roundhouse kick.

While Lam is the infatigable star, he’s nearly eclipsed by his nemesis, Philip Ng’s King – a giggling, seemingly indestructible sadist with a majestic mullet, Rayban sunglasses and a wardrobe like an extra from the Thriller video. As choreographer of the cavalcade of inventive martial arts moments, Ng pulls double duty as MVP. 

Ferocious, impressive dust-up (particularly one on a double decker bus) drive the action more than actual narrative but there’s a reason TOTW:WI has been a huge hit at the Hong Kong box office. As an action crowdpleaser it combines universal themes with a nostalgic specificity for Hong Kong during a key moment in its history. And at its core, it lauds community – wherever anyone might find it.

Soi Cheang’s Twilight Of The Warriors: Walled In starring Raymond Lam is screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Out in cinemas 24 May