After Warrior and Fists of Legend, Hong Kong delivers a well-paced mixed martial arts thriller that drives on character development and does extremely well thanks to the performances of its three lead stars.
The film is set in Macau, where the lives of three people who delve with personal matters intersect. Ching Fai is a former boxing champion who has fallen on hard times after taking dives and working with the Triads, leading him to jail time and eventual escape from the gangsters after owing some debt. Lin Siqi is a young man who has learned his father (Jack Kao) has lost his business in the stock markets and spends his nights drinking and berating his son about not doing anything with his life. Gwen Wong is a single mother who after losing her husband to another woman, became an alcoholic and an incident causes the accidental drowning of her son. This causes her to suffer mental health issues but manages to get better and takes care of her daughter Dani.
When Fai gets a job at the local gym, Siqi joins to gym in hopes of entering a competition known as the Golden Rumble. It is a mixed martial arts competition where two men compete and the winner becomes known as the Ringmaster, getting the chance to last three matches and become its champion. When Siqi learns of Fai’s boxing background, he asks to train him. Fai at first refuses, but eventually takes the kid in after witnessing an incident with his father.
Along with his job, Fai rents a room owned by Gwen. At first, Dani makes it clear that Fai is not really welcome and has to abide by the rules. Upon learning what has happened to Gwen, he decides to become a true player in terms of the house rules. Eventually, he gains the trust of Gwen and Dani, who after losing both their husband/father and son/brother, finally have found peace with someone who cares about both of them. Meanwhile, Siqi becomes the underdog in the Golden Rumble competition, but gains fame when his persistence makes him well-known. That is, until a fighter named Lee Chi-Tan (Andy On) comes to the scene to challenge Lin. Meanwhile, Fai’s past catches up to him, setting a chain of events that only he can change by seeking a sense of redemption.
Director Dante Lam has been known for some great films in his career. When it was announced that he would be directing a mixed martial arts film, one can only wonder what he would be delivering. Following the Hollywood film Warrior and the Korean film Fists of Legend, Lam delivers a character-driven storyline that not only focuses on the world of mixed martial arts, but a story of personal redemption of three characters who only want one thing: better lives. The film explores the hardships that Nick Cheung’s Fai, Eddie Peng’s Siqi, and Mei Tang’s Gwen all must endure to make their lives change in a more positive light.
Nick Cheung is the focus of the film as the two main supporting players turn to him for helping turn their lives around. Cheung’s Ching Fai, who is nicknamed ‘Scumbag’ because of his past actions, seeks to make his life better by evading the debt-chasing gangsters and heading off to Macau. One can only say Nick Cheung has truly made a name for himself as one of today’s best dramatic actors, a definite change from his beginnings as a comedic actor who was to have been Stephen Chow’s successor in the famous “gambling comedy” genre. However, he truly made the transition and this is by far, one of his best roles, even physically transforming himself for the film to an agile fighter.
Eddie Peng is truly making a name for himself in the action genre. Going from playing the main nemesis in Stephen Fung’s Tai Chi films to this film, it is great to see the young man play a more likable character. Peng plays Lin as someone who feels like a loser because he feels his father blames him for his company crumbling, branding him a loser. Lin’s reason for entering the Golden Rumble competition is not for money, but to really prove himself to his father that he can do something with his life.
Meanwhile, Mei Tang plays the most disturbed character of the trio. As Gwen Wong, she is a single mother whose loses her husband to another woman, forcing her to make a very bad choice. After a day of drinking, she falls asleep on the couch and it is here that sets the trigger for her story, losing her only son to an accidental drowning. Her daughter becomes her only reason to live at this point, even owning up to taking most of the responsibilities of the house until Fai arrives. Fai’s arrival of course is at first, met with resistance, but soon it grows into a respectable friendship between Fai and Gwen. This is evident when he buys her headphones to replace her broken pair and helps her plant a tree in the middle of a downpour.
Which brings us to the mixed martial arts action. Choreographed by veteran stuntman Ling Chi-Wah, Ling received helped from MMA consultant Henry Chan and boxing consultant Dave Lam. The trio helped train Cheung and Peng for the film and make them look quite good in the film. However, the big surprise of the film is that of Andy On, who plays the powerful Lee Chi-Tan, who becomes the antagonist in the Golden Rumble competition. On truly has made a name for himself in the action film industry and delivers here showing some of the work that he did in 2003’s Star Runner, only kicked up (literally) a major notch. It is like watching a new version of Tank Wong (On’s character from Star Runner) rebooted with more power and tenacity. One bout serves up some interesting camerawork, where we see the point of views from both men at times in a tie-up position and it helps make the fight look quite nice along with some nicely shot angles and not too much on the close ups.
Unbeatable is truly a great MMA film coming from Hong Kong. Like its Hollywood and Korean predecessors, the film delivers on a level that combines exhilarating action and a character-driven storyline that tells a tale of personal redemption between three individuals. Truly worth a rental with a possible of buying the film. This film delivers the goods.
WFG RATING: A
Bona Entertainment Co. Ltd. presents a Distribution Workshop Production. Director: Dante Lam. Producer: Candy Leung. Writers: Jack Ng, Dante Lam, Candy Leung, and Fung Chi-Fung. Cinematography: Kenny Tse and Samuel Fu. Editing: Azrael Chung.
Cast: Nick Cheung, Eddie Peng, Mei Ting, Crystal Lee, Andy On, Jack Kao, Philip Keung, Wang Baoqiang, Li Fei-Er, Liu Genghong, Gary Chan, Michelle Lo, Stephen Au.