In the fictional Republic of Kalynsia, at the crossroads of Asia, India and Europe, two gangs, known as Ding Sheng He and Seven Star Society, fight for dominance over the city of Lankupah. When Luo Jia (Li Guang Jie), an outgoing gangster, joins Seven Star Society, he immediately clashes with the taciturn Bai Zhen He (Yuan Wen Kang), a former special forces operative.
But as they investigate the ties between the death of their loved ones and an extensive drug trafficking network, the two must work together in order to survive their quest for justice.
This is the unexpected gem of my year, I think. The City of Chaos came out two years ago, and I remember looking for it everywhere, but not finding any subtitles. And then, as I was browsing through IQIYI about two weeks ago or so, I came across it again, and what do you know? It was subbed, and with real subtitles, too!
I’m so happy this gem of a show found me again, let me tell you. So happy. After the bitter experience that was The Song of Glory, I needed something completely different, and this one-of-a-kind masterpiece was it. The 5 awards it won kind of testify to its quality, too.
50 Shades of Humanity
The characters. The characters in this show were everything. There was no way to hate anybody, because they all had so many layers to them. Not one of them was 100% bad: just like everybody else, even the bad guys loved and bled and felt, and some of those bad guys were just so endearing it was impossible, in the end, to hate them. Even after coming to know the full extent of their crimes and betrayals.
And of course, the main duo was incredible. I loved their struggle to make the best of what they’d been dealt, especially Bai Zhen He’s, because this man, you guys. This man, so straight and loyal and loving, who deserved the world and kept getting beat up by everyone and everything, and yet forced himself up over and over again… I adored him. He was the tired dad to his two rambuctious children Luo Jia and Yu Yong Yi, the mediator between two hot tempers, the quiet one at the back, the protector who suffered in silence. He was the guy people adored, and yet kept hurting.
My heart hurt for him, okay?
The lighting and color coordination were expertly handled in The City of Chaos. Bright yellows with grays, blacks and reds, deep blues… There were a great many shots which I just had to watch again because they were so pretty.
Then again, the posters themselves were stunning. There were so many of them, and they’re all drop-dead gorgeous. The team really did an incredible job right there. I’ve uploaded them all on MyDramaList, so you can check them out right over there.
Hats Off for the Plot and Pacing
After so many costume dramas—which are infamous for their filler episodes and draggy plotlines, The City of Chaos was everything that I needed. The plot was driven and intense. Short comedic scenes were interwoven very well with the action as a way to help you unwind a bit from all the constant tension, but they never interrupted the storytelling. Instead, they helped get to know the characters more, and come to love them even if they’re not really good people.
I’m thinking, for example, of this wonderful scene in which two hardened gangsters bust out their “best” dancing moves to cheer up the wife of one of them. I had some really good laughs in front of The City of Chaos… and shed a vast amount of tears as well.
Also, hats for the best plot twist ever. I never saw it coming, and I just screamed when it was revealed. Seriously, guys. It was insane! It’s been weeks, and I’m still blown away. WOW.
Nope to the Romance
To be honest, The City of Chaos could have done without the romances. Luo Jia’s love story with Lin Xi was alright, I guess, although I really wasn’t a fan of Jiang Pei Yao once the story started to focus on her a little more.
The romance which bothered me a bit more was Bai Zhen He’s. I understand why it was there, but at the same time, the girl in question just… rubbed me the wrong way? I mean, she had her moments, she really did, and her lighthearted, outspoken personality was a good balance to his own taciturn character, but at the same time, I felt like her constant lectures were very annoying, especially since he’s so much older and more experienced than her in the first place.
But in the end, those subplots were inconsequential enough that they didn’t bother me too much. Both Hailan and Lin Xi were very much secondary characters, and their scenes never managed to disrupt the pacing of the show, so they weren’t too much of a problem.
And besides, we all know that the real couple was those two, with all of their shared experiences and moral beliefs.
All in All…
Though the ending was maybe a teeny-tiny bit rushed (there are just a few characters I’d have liked to see what the aftermath was like for), The City of Chaos was a fantastic watch.
It was very intense, yes (I watched a couple episodes of The Lost Tomb every night to unwind after hours of gripping suspense and emotion), but it was fantastic. The music was very simple (with the piano, the guitar and chords as its basis) but fit the atmosphere and sobriety of the story very well, and the colors were wonderfully done.
Title: The City of Chaos
Starring: Li Guang Jie, Yuan Wen Kang, Clara Lee
Number of episodes: 24
Genres: Gangster, Suspense, Mystery, Thriller
My Grade: ★★★★★
Where to Watch: IQIYI (first two episodes are free, then the others are VIP-locked)