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Saturday August 17, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday August 17, 2013 MYT 8:02:07 AM
By SETO KIT YAN
Nick Cheung and Eddie Peng deliver knock-out performances in Dante Lam’s Unbeatable.
HONG Kong director Dante Lam has been making a name for himself as a filmmaker who makes great bloke flicks. And, Unbeatable is one such film, which will get guys flocking to the cinemas. Unbeatable got a bigger boost recently when leads Nick Cheung and Crystal Lee nabbed the best actor and best actress awards at the 16th Shanghai International Film Festival, prior to its general release.
While Lam continues to explore male-centric relationships, Unbeatable clearly breaks away from the fire power of his wildly popular high-octane action thrillers like Beast Stalker (2008), Fire Of Conscience (2010),The Stool Pigeon (2010), and The Viral Factor (2011).
Formerly titled MMA, Unbeatable is largely set in Macau and is generously engaging while exuding a nostalgic mood not unlike Alex Law’s Echoes Of The Rainbow.
While the perfectly sculpted bods of Nick Cheung and Eddie Peng may have made headlines in the entertainment pages of most Chinese publications, the movie doesn’t dwell on that, but aims to strike a balance between its character-driven drama and its bone-crunching fight scenes.
Unbeatable revolves around the lives of two boxers. Fai (Cheung) is a debt-ridden former boxing champ who did time in the slammer for throwing fights for the triads, while Qi (Peng) is a young boxer whose tycoon father has turned to drinking and gambling after losing his fortune over a business deal gone bad.
So, Qi tries to inspire his father to get back on his feet, while Fai bonds with his feisty 10-year-old neighbour Dani (Lee) and her emotionally troubled mother Gwen (Mei Ting). Desperate to win a boxing match, Qi gets Fai to train him for a mixed martial arts championship. Both have their own reasons to take to the ring, apart from the prize money.
It seems Cheung can do no wrong after going from playing the underdog comedian to one of Hong Kong’s most respected dramatic lead actors (he won seven movie awards for his role in Lam’s 2008 movie Beast Stalker).And, If you thought Peng was outstanding as a gymnast in Jump Ashin! (2011), then the Taiwanese-Canadian actor will make your jaw drop in Unbeatable with his acting chops in the action scenes.
Together, the actors make a formidable teacher-student team, with Cheung’s nuanced portrayal of a downtrodden boxing champ and Peng’s spirited training sequences as an MMA boxer tugging at viewers’ heart-strings.
They both get to fight Andy On, who is simply stunning as the “bad guy” Li in Unbeatable. Unfortunately, his role as the cocky ringmaster is severely underdeveloped. In fact, he barely says a word in the movie.
An amazing director, Lam manages to bring out the best in child actress Lee, who performs so much better in Unbeatable than she does in Malaysian productions where her acting is usually much too exaggerated. It is obvious that the little girl has Lam to thank for making her a star with his brilliant directing skills. Still, it is amazing how she manages to hold her own in scenes with Cheung.
This movie should have been titled Unbreakable because the characters in the movie may have their faces and limbs broken, but their spirits continue to soar. The fight scenes look excruciatingly painful yet exhilarating to watch. If you can bear with a bit of melodrama that is typical of Asian productions,Unbeatable delivers the goods.
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