Fatal Contact
Hong Kong 2006
Directed by Dennis Law.

Kong (Wu Jing) is an all around nice guy/kung fu champion gets a little work in Chinese Opera. Underground Fighting reps try to recruit him to fight for them, but he won't, until Tin (Miki Yeung), the girl he is sweet on, talks him in to it. They get looked after by "Captain" (Ronald Cheung), a money grubbing loser who also happens to be a martial arts expert (Cheung at last gets his dream role). Kong proceeds to beat the tar out of a seemingly endless parade of opponents, while the stakes keep climbing higher.

The fights are really what this film is all about, and they are quite excellent, and appear plausible even when Wu Jing is throwing down some impossible moves. This is thanks to fight choreography from Chung Chi-Li, who has worked on several Jackie Chan movies in the past as part of his stunt team. And Herman Yau took the cinematographer credit on this one, making the behind the scenes crew at least as strong as the cast.

What is challenging about the narrative structure of FATAL CONTACT is the lack of a truly sympathetic character for much of the running time. Everyone is taking advantage of poor Kong, who is apparently too stupid to know better. His girlfriend especially behaves quite ghoulish at times, cheering when he pummels a man nearly to death. The disgust he feels for himself at that moment appears on his face for a moment, but he plasters it over quickly, so as to not hurt her feelings. Only at the end of the movie do we see some dialogs that help us understand our heroes empovershed backgrounds. A constant thread that runs through the film is childhood poverty, and the lengths they go to avoid it; her prostitute friend (Theresa Fu) seeming to embody this most thoroughly, but gradually we realize it hovers over everyone, in different measures.

Comedian Ronald Cheung seems an unlikely choice to play a kung-fu sifu, but he keeps the humor strictly character-driven, avoids the cheap laughs, and generally pulls it off with a smile.

At one point Kong says he "wants to be like Jet Li", and its a funny line coming from Wu Jing because that's pretty much what he is positioned as in Hong Kong movies. And here he takes on the usual Jet Li role of innocent, naive, kung-fu guy. Combined with underground fighting, and one can't help but compare the film to Jet Li's DANNY THE DOG (aka UNLEASHED). Jet Li's movie is more violent, yet also carries a greater emotional center. Wu Jing's movie feels a bit more like a didactic lesson. Unlike the fights, which we believe, his character becomes rather implausible.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on September 11, 2007.

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