Nick Cheung reunites with director Dante Lam – whose films, most notably 2008’s Beast Stalker, turned Cheung from B-list comedian to award-winning dramatic actor – in Unbeatable, a character-driven drama on the world of mixed martial arts.
Like many of Lam’s films, Unbeatable is heavy on melodrama between blindly driven characters. Cheung is Chin Fai, a middle-aged former boxing champion who trains a young protégé named Lin Siqi (Eddie Peng) in preparation for an MMA tournament in Macau. Siqi’s eagerness to fight, and the decision of Chin Fai – who had long been away from the ring and had fallen on hard times – to train him is explained via cheesy plot devices and cinema clichés, which, let’s just say, involve characters feeling a random need to seek redemption from various melodramas.
The main draw here are the MMA fight scenes – Cheung bulked up dramatically for the role – and they’re mostly well shot and choreographed, despite being backed by weird, generic action music. In fact, Lam’s entire choice of score is baffling, with goofy tunes accompanying lighthearted scenes and a bad cover of The Sound of Silence for the Rocky-like training montage. This could have been a great straight-up fight film, but Lam’s need to evoke human emotions and forced drama drags it down significantly. Ben Sin
Dir Dante Lam Category IIB, 116 mins, opens on Thu Aug 15