Movie Details

Unbeatable

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...

Language: Mandarin
Subtitle: English / Chinese
Classification: PG13
Release Date: 15 Aug 2013
Genre: Action / Drama
Running Time: 2 Hours 1 Minute
Distributor: SHAW ORGANISATION
Cast: Eddie Peng, Nick Cheung
Director: Dante Lam
Format: 2D

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Review
Writer: Elaine Ewe

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Watch this if you liked: Dante Lam's films, boxing films and wrestling films

"Unbeatable" serves to assert that director Dante Lam gives his best work when he is paired up with Nick Cheung, after "The Beast Stalker" and "The Stool Pigeon". The latter can be debatable amongst critics, but it is miles better than Lam's preceding film, "The Viral Factor". However, aside from the fact that Cheung is in all of those films; there are hardly any similarities between "Unbeatable" and Lam's previous works.

Firstly, "Unbeatable" is a departure from Lam's police thrillers by focusing on the theme of mixed martial arts. The film opens by showing how the three different people hit rock bottom - Wealthy 30-year-old Lin Si-Qi (Eddie Peng) is on a holiday when he reads that his tycoon father has gone bankrupt overnight, former boxing champion Chin Fai (Nick Cheung) is on the run from debtors and Dani (Crystal Lee) loses both her mother and brother in a domestic tragedy.

The trio's paths converge when Fai goes to Macau to work at a mixed martial arts school run by his old friend Tai-sui (Philip Keung) and sublets a room in Dani's rundown apartment. Si-Qi, who has also come to Macau, barely scrapes by with construction work, learns of the world-famous MMA championship, the Golden Rumble, and enrolls in Tai-sui's school, where he eventually persuades Fai to be his personal coach.

Secondly, Lam guides the film with generous dollops of endearing moments and offbeat humour amid the brutality of the MMA fighting sequences. As the narrative chugs on, we see that Fai is not a bad person at heart; he is just person who has made bad choices in life. When he decides to take on the inept but determined Si-Qi as his protege and Dani and her mother Gwen (Mei Ting) as his surrogate family, we can't help but smile. The film is also not all machismo and testosterone, as Lam throws in scenes of the two men playfully kissing while in practicing "lock techniques" as well as Dani, Gwen and Fai painting the apartment and play-acting.

Although the film runs along the well-worn tracks of the underdogs getting their shot at fame in the MMA tournament (an example being Hollywood's Gavin O'Connor's "Warrior"), and ultimately, their redemption, Lam manages to make the drama and his protagonists interesting enough for us to want to take the ride. Much has been written about Cheung's eye-opening physical transformation to fit the role of an MMA fighter, but it is his turn as the "Scumbag" Fai that catches the eye. Cheung plays Fai in a way that is natural yet sincere, which is reminiscent of Andy Lau's old roles such as Fatso in "Love On A Diet" before he became the contrived poseur we saw in "Switch". The other cast members such as Eddie Peng and Malaysian child actress Crystal Lee also give excellent performances as the greenhorn MMA fighter and tough-as-nails young girl. The two have an easy chemistry with Cheung that makes for compelling drama outside of the ring.

Thirdly, as mentioned previously, action director Ling Chi-wah incorporates plenty of realistic MMA training techniques like Si-Qi lifting tractor tires, as well as MMA moves like the "lock technique". The cinematography also does not shy away from the action - the camera stalks the fighters to catch their swift movements and oftentimes, the film resorts to first-person close up shots to put us into the shoes of the fighters and allow us to feel their punishing pain. Granted, there are some techniques that are not allowed in real-life MMA tournaments such as neck-breaking, but the detailed attention to the fighting strategies alone differentiates the film from the many cheap action fare out there.

Outside of the ring, the cinematography is equally impressive. Macau looks romantic with its bustling markets, rain-slicked streets and cobbled streets. Like "Rocky", "Unbeatable" also has its own training montage, which stood out for its use of Gwen's headphones as a motif to play out the sequence to Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds Of Silence", and makes it resonate.

"Unbeatable" is definitely one of Lam's better films despite the pugilist movie cliches and proves that Lam is one of the few Hong Kong film auteurs that are a cut above the rest. Not only has its stars (Cheung and Lee) won acting awards at the Shanghai International Film Festival for their powerhouse performances, but the film boasts overall splendid cast performances, a tight grip on the action choreography, beautiful cinematography as well as oodles of charm. The result is one of the films out this year that should not be missed.

Cinema Online, 15 August 2013
   
Showtimes
 
Classification
Effective 15 July 2011
G - Suitable for all ages
PG - Suitable for all ages, but parents should provide guidance to their young
PG13 - Suitable for persons aged 13 and above, but parental guidance is advised for children below 13
NC16 - Suitable for persons aged 16 years and above
M18 - Suitable for persons aged 18 years and above
R21 - Restricted to persons aged 21 and above only
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