First Impressions: A Fist Within Four Walls (TVB, 2016)

A Fist Within Four Walls (城寨英雄)

Genre: Premodern Drama/Martial Arts
Length: 28 episodes
Producer: Jazz Boon

The Cast: Ruco Chan, Benjamin Yuen, Nancy Wu, Philip Ng, Yuen Qiu, KK Cheung, Carlos Ng, Moon Lau, Zoie Tam, Bella Lam, etc.

At a quick glance and if I were to judge a book by it’s cover, I would be skipping over this. I’ve pretty much stopped watching anything from TVB in the period/premodern era because they tend to be a tad bit melodramatic for my liking. But I’ve been giving every new TVB drama of 2016 a try (at least 2-5 episodes) because I have time. The main cast definitely doesn’t disappoint with Ruco and Nancy being my favorites and even the nerdy-looking (very adorable though) Benjamin’s passive acting career has a chance of being “active” here with a co-lead role.

It’s Ruco and Nancy’s first collaboration, but I’ve always imagined them together in a modern drama where they are bickering or at odds with one another one way or another. Well, my wish was half granted. Modern, no. Bickering, yes. Ever since Ruco’s return to TVB his roles have always comprised of playing selfish villains or a smart man in some white-collared job fighting for justice. I find his somewhat naive persona with brute strength here completely endearing. In other words, instead of looking up at him like he’s my dream man this time, I just want to give him a hug — upon returning to the Walled City and realize that chaos has completely taken over justice. His resilience and persistence to not succumb to the evils makes him a very typical TVB male leading character, that is, if he was played by someone like Wayne or Moses, but ultimately becomes more refreshing when Ruco is leading us through this. ;)

Nancy’s exterior as the fiesty and bossy hair salon owner is absolutely hilarious (though executed with a little restraint), especially at how quickly she can change when she learns Ruco was at her salon to work and not a customer whom she can rip off of. Still, Nancy’s profit-oriented ways and tough ass lady boss attitude is merely to adapt to the environment of the Walled City because she is the first one to get worried and antsty when her employee, played by Bella Lam, is kidnapped by one of the triad men in the city.

Still when Ruco ventures into the dark to rescue Bella by himself, Nancy quietly follows him instead of retreating to avoid danger. Although Nancy seemingly has the hots of Benjamin and releases all her feminine qualities in his presence, the Ruco and Nancy partnership seems to be the one to go through thick and thin.

Unlike Ruco, Benjamin who believes that it’s martial arts and Baijiquan who caused his father’s demise 15 years ago, lives as a low-key dentist within the Walled City, concealing both his martial arts and identity. Perhaps, the writers intended for the yin and yang of Benjamin and Ruco’s characters to be exactly like their family Baijiquan styles: one whose style is calm and collective, the other is brute and hardcore.

Still, it’s a little try-hard and funny that Ruco and Benjamin’s character are written to be about 25 years old when it reality they are 39 and 35, respectively.

The rest of the cast includes Yuen Qiu, who appears in almost every TVB martial arts themed drama within the last decade or so if you haven’t caught that pattern yet. As her store is right across from Nancy’s hair salon, the two constantly bickers and gives each other a hard time. With a sense of righteousness, Yuen Qiu opposes his son’s, played by Philip Ng, involvement with the triads, but it’s both humorous and warming to see how much they care for each other despite always publicly disapproving each other.

Yes, it’s the environment that coerces the characters to withhold a piece of their heart and generosity and Ruco seems to be the stimulant that will cause a rebellion that will tick off the bad guys.

KK Cheung, Vincent Lam, and Carlos Ng finishes off the cast as the triad leaders who makes the Walled City a fight or flight place to live in. They engage in every sin and underground dealing that Las Vegas Sin City offers today: women, prostitution, drugs, and gambling. Each and every one of them owns or runs one or the other. KK Cheung never fails as a villain or the good guy with his calm and poised demeanor. Vincent always looks the part as someone working on the bad side. But if its anyone who surprises it’s Carlos who really runs chills down your spine with his feminine, eerie vibe. The whole white eyebrows, red orange lip, blush, and red embroidered cheong-sam may just be a little too much stimulation even on a woman. :o

The premiere which reached 30 points and peaked 31 peaks already proves that the show has both potential and action, considering many TVB series don’t even reach this number by its finale these days. All in all, this seems like the first TVB series this year that has a true stab at this year’s anniversary awards in regards to a highly-rated premiere where TVB invested its main cast in a two month martial arts training session and recruited HK action choreographer, Philip Ng, to take a part after a three-month negotiation.

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