A Fighter’s Blues (2000)

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Andy Lau’s 100th film shows a once broken man who finds himself on the verge of redemption.

After serving a fifteen-year sentence in prison, former kickboxer Mong Fu has been released. He decides to look for his one-time love, Pim Nanthasiri, an aspiring documentarian. However, he has learned the sad news that Pim was killed during the making of a documentary in the Golden Triangle. Fu learns that he has a daughter, Ploy, who is staying at a local orphanage run by Sister Mioko. However, Fu can’t bear to shake the memory of the night he killed local champion Chart Chai.

Despite his demons, he and Ploy slowly begin to bond. He even begins to warm up to Sister Mioko. However, at a national match where Ploy is cheering on, Fu has been spotted by Chart Chai’s former trainer, who tells everyone about Ploy’s father killing Chart Chai. An embarrassed Ploy denounces her father, who remembers that fateful night again and decides he must settle it once and for all. He has learned that Chart Chai’s trainer has trained six-time champion Tawon and in an effort to settle things, Fu challenges Tawon to a match in the ring.

Black Mask director Daniel Lee took the reins on this film, which he co-wrote with Cheung Chi-Sing and Lee Hau-Shek. The film is actually a kickboxing version of films such as Raging Bull where a fighter at the top of his game falls hard and seeks redemption. However, in the case of Andy Lau’s Mong Fu, the film opens with his release from prison and his quest for redemption.

It is clear why Andy Lau is one of the best actors in Hong Kong. In this film, he plays a broken man who is looking for both forgiveness and redemption if not anything else. While he has lost someone close to him, in the form of Pim, played in flashbacks by Thai actress Indira Jaroenpura (who has a bit of a resemblance here to Karen Mok), he learns of his and Pim’s daughter Ploy. Newcomer Apichaya Thanatthanapong, in what looks to be her only film role, does quite well in the role of Ploy, who has her doubts but eventually warns up to her long lost father.

Japanese actress Takako Tokiwa brings some great support as Sister Mioko, who runs the orphanage where Ploy stays until Fu enters both of their lives. While Lau trained in Muay Thai for his role, the film does feature some real-life Muay Thai champions. Samart Payarakoon, a veteran who retired from the ring in the late 80’s, plays the ill-fated Chart Chai while Niruj Soasudhcart plays the current six-time champion Tawon, who Fu challenges as a means to find redemption and forgiveness within both the Muay Thai community and within himself as well. Ridley Tsui’s experience as action director comes well into play in the in-ring fights.

A Fighter’s Blues is a really good film where it’s not about the fights, but about the drama. Andy Lau shows why he is one of Hong Kong’s great talents. His role is impressive both in and out of the ring while trying to find himself in the process.


China Star Entertainment Group presents a Teamwork Motion Pictures Limited production. Director: Daniel Lee. Producers: Andy Lau, Derek Yee, and Catherine Hun. Writers: Daniel Lee, Cheung Chi-Sing, and Lee Hau-Shek. Cinematography: Venus Keung, Sunny Tsang, and Thomas Yeung. Editing: Azrael Chung.

Cast: Andy Lau, Takako Tokiwa, Apichaya Thanatthanapong, Indira Jaroenpura, Dickens Chan, Calvin Poon, Kowit Wattanakul, Samart Payakaroon, Niruj Soasudchart, Ekachai Waritchaaporn.


The Forgiven (2018)

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Forest Whitaker and Eric Bana pull off powerful performances in this adaptation of Michael Ashton’s stage play set in post-Apartheid South Africa.

At the end of Apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela has been elected President. In an effort to ease tensions between Afikaners and native Africans, a committee is formed for prisoners and violators who are willing to be given asylum if they confess to their crimes against humanity and witnesses to crimes against human rights are allowed to give statements. The chairman of what would be known as the Truth and Reconciliation Committee is Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Going to Cape Town, Archbishop Tutu is plagued by nightmares and can’t sleep. Making a promise to help a family whose child has disappeared, Tutu is contacted one day by an Afrikaner on death row in an effort for a chance at reconciliation before he is set to be executed. Going to Pollsmoor State Prison, Tutu meets the man, AWB Piet Blomfeld, a former security forces member who offers vital information for Archbishop Tutu on the his very case he intends to solve. Through a series of meetings, Tutu and Blomfeld attempt at keeping the faith and for the latter, a last chance as redemption before his fate is met.

When someone adapts their own work into a film feature, then you know in most cases, it will be a good film because it becomes a collaboration between the writer and the vision of the director. In this case, playwright Michael Ashton takes his stage play The Archbishop and the Antichrist and adapts it with the help of renowned director Roland Joffé, who co-wrote the film’s script with Ashton, to make a very powerful film about faith and redemption between the old ways and the ways of today in South Africa.

The very heart of the film are the performances of Forest Whitaker as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Eric Bana as death row prisoner Piet Blomfeld. Nearly unrecognizable as the real-life humanitarian, Whitaker continues to prove why he is truly a great actor as he plays Tutu as a man of faith and one who makes a promise to a family and will stop at nothing to make sure that promise goes through. However, where in the case of some films, Tutu doesn’t necessarily need to go on the offensive as Tutu is a man of peace. Yes, he gets plagued by nightmares and sometimes feels a sort of distance when it comes to his own family, but for him, doing what is right is not a job, but a privilege for the people of South Africa.

As for Eric Bana, this is perhaps one of his best roles yet. The Australian actor, who many will remember playing Bruce Banner in Ang Lee’s 2003 take of the Hulk, has done his share of versatile roles. However, as the embittered Piet Blomfeld, Bana brings force a driven and emotional performance as a man who killed due to the effects of Apartheid but seeks redemption by helping Tutu solve the case through a series of meetings. At first, the tension between Blomfeld and Tutu is there to a tee. However, things soon become better and in his last shot at faith and redemption, Blomfeld ultimately does something unexpected for everyone involved and this just proves that people can truly learn to adapt when there is a major change within a country once known for its harsh sense of racism.

The Forgiven is a very moving, powerful, and emotional film that brings out some of the best performances by leads Forest Whitaker and Eric Bana along with a climactic turn that just proves that with political change, some people can in fact change themselves.


Saban Films presents a Light and Dark Films/Jeff Rice Films production in association with LB Entertainment, thefyzz facility, and Flexibon Films. Director: Roland Joffé. Producers: Craig Baumgarten, Zaheer Bhyat, and Roland Joffé. Writers: Michael Ashton and Roland Joffé; based on the stage play “The Archbishop and the Antichrist” by Ashton. Cinematography: William Wages. Editing: Megan Gill.

Cast: Forest Whitaker, Eric Bana, Jeff Gum, Morné Visser, Terry Norton, Rob Gough, Debbie Sherman, Warrick Grier, David Butler.