Just a small town boy trying to make it big – oh, why have I got Bronski Beat playing in my head, it’s not like that at all!…
Kong Ko (Jacky Wu) is a mainland rural boy in the national martial arts Olympic team whose talents earn him prestige but little in the way of cash. He dreams of being the next Jet Li, – a knowing reference to both Li’s time as a national champion when he was a member of Bejing Wushu Academy (which Wu also belonged to), and to filmmakers hopes for Wu’s career – but such dreams seem far off until Mr Ma (Hudson Leung) offers him a chance to make big money fast on the underground boxing circuit.
At first it seems like easy money, but soon the stakes become higher and his opponents more challenging, he finds himself turning into a ruthless fighting machine. He realises that honour has little to do with fights when money, and the life of his girlfriend Siu Tin (Miki Yeung), are at stake as he faces the ultimate choice – stand and fight or the humiliation of throwing a fight.
Dennis Law –producer on Triangle and the Election series, and a writing contributor to the Warriors Of Virtue series – directs his own often cringe-worthy script. It plays to every cliché of the small town boy in a big city, with a heavy-handed moralistic tone.
Often there are hints of a far more edgy movie: the dubious previous life of Kong, herself from rural mainland China, and her utter willingness to become affluent at any cost; Siu’s advice to her friend to seek out a wealthy client when she becomes a prostitute; the gangs that control the boxing circuit.
Yet beside these are drippy, unconvincing romantic scenes between Kong and Siu, or comedy moments provided by their guardian Captain (Ronald Cheng), and the whole film is played with a gloss and a lightness that prevents those moments from ever reaching the possible bite the film could have had. The underground boxing locations lack the grittiness of even those in Ong-Bak. Such lightness of touch makes the films tragic conclusion, though predictable, seem out of place with the rest of the film.
Jacky Wu (aka Wu Jing) actually gives a very likable and believable performance in the lead role of Kong. Though it may be less fun than some of his more villainous roles in films like S.P.L. and Invisible Target, he shows real promise in such roles as a true martial artist who can actually act! (It’s hard to believe it’s only his second time in the spotlight since 1996’s Tai Chi Boxer/Tai Chi II.)
Of course, the main attraction here is the fight scenes – though whether audiences will stick with the soppy love scenes to get to them is rather doubtful. Here a host of cameo stars give their blessing to the proceedings, including Timmy Hung, Sammo Hung’s eldest son, Kung Fu Hustle’s Xing Yu, Japanese martial arts star Yasauki Kurata’s son Kenji Tanigaki and Andy On (Mad Detective). There’s no doubting Jacky Wu’s ability, and the action choreography by Nicky Li does its best to show that off on screen – but often Dennis’ direction does it little justice, preferring long shots to tight action.
Fatal Contact isn’t terrible, but the melodrama is hardly likely to appeal to action fans, and the drama is far too week to gain any fans outside of that. Something a little grittier may pleased both audiences…
The DVD of Fatal Contact is released on Monday 21 July by Cine Asia.
Distributor: Cine Asia (UK)
Solid release in sound and picture quality with usual, nominal extra features – making of, trailers and outtakes.
However, in comparison with the US 2-disc Dragon Dynasty release it all seems rather apologetic. Where's the commentary? All the special features and interviews? Very disappointing...