Director Dante Lam reunites with his The Pigeon Stool's star Nick Cheung in yet another award-winning collaboration. Adding into that mix is the young and talented Malaysian-born actress with her budding career on the go, Crystal Lee. The result is an extraordinary effort known as "Unbeatable", a film about mixed martial art and more. Following critical appraisals it received during June's Shanghai Film Festival, it leaves me with a strong intriguing and anticipation on the horizon. But the curiosity pays off. After more than 2 hours of cinematic journey, Unbeatable is this year's gem in the Hong Kong cinema, a strong contender of becoming one of the best pictures of the year, no thanks to an effortless and pragmatic character-driven story to savour for.
Release Date: 15 August 2013
Running Time: 117 minutes
Distributor: Ram Entertainment
Director: Dante Lam
Screenplay: Dante Lam, Chi-Fung Fung and Wai Lun Ng; story by Dante Lam and Candy Leung
Starring: Nick Cheung, Eddie Peng, Crystal Lee,
Plot: After a stint in prison for participating in underground boxing, 48-year-old Fai is knee-deep in debt with no solution in sight. Once a contender in the boxing world, he is now a broken man who works in a gym as a janitor and an assistant instructor in weight loss classes. With no money, Fai is arranged to share a house with recovering mental illness sufferer Gwen and her 10-year-old daughter Dan. Even though their co-existence starts out as hostile, it slowly turns into a family-like bond - with Fai acting as the pair's protector. Hot-blooded young man Qi was once the son of a rich man in mainland China. However, the family business failed, sending his dad into alcohol-fueled depressing and forcing Qi to take up black market jobs in Macau for survival. To inspire his father to stand up again, Qi enters an open MMA competition and starts training at Fai's gym. However, Qi's fourth opponent in the tournament is Lee Yuan-Heng - a fighter best known for his ferocity in the ring...
Even with some disputed issues for been too rigid to the genre, it ultimately comes down to the smaller details to justify why “Unbeatable” is a really good movie after all. Nick Cheung and Crystal Lee are not disappointing in their acting. In fact their strong performances pretty much carry the movie with much effectiveness. Nick and Crystal are able to roam their characters freely, projecting personal problems and struggles from the eyes of the character, which I believe is very realistic. Taiwanese Eddie Peng, on the other hand, has a steady role to handle while most of the time he just cruises along on the background. Aforementioned, “Unbeatable” is not only about the struggles in the MMA world but also delves into the organic struggles of a single-parent, the morality of a fallen hero and unstable father-son relationship also forms the majority bulk of the entire story. The meticulous and diligent writing enables the plot to dissect each story with enough amounts of heartfelt story, giving it a strong emotional endeavour that never falters all the way and making “Unbeatable” a distinguished movie from the others.
The ability of the movie to balances off the emotional side with the action components is a brilliant composite of artistry. Several MMA moments are handled well with decent combinations of camerawork and choreography that are equally stunning. But some did complaint about the way the movie handles some of those MMA fights with the close-up, quick zoom in-out camera techniques to portray the experience. I generally less distracted by these though. On the music department, the movie decided to go for the unconventional but effective choice by putting Ania Drabowska's version of Sound of Silence (originally sang by Simon & Garfunkel) into a piece of amazing theme song.
In the end, "Unbeatable" cringes on many formulaic and familiar elements from other movies within this genre, but ultimately relies on emotional and strong character-story and the heartfelt moments to give this movie a break-out status.