Watched my first mainstream Hong Kong movie in theaters Friday night. Unbeatable is a film about mixed martial arts. The trailer implies that the two main characters, a veteran boxer and a rookie, train for a major MMA competition in Macau. The selling point was the mixed martial arts and the hook, line, and sinker as to why I wanted to watch this in the first place.
The trailer above is what the movie should have been about. It was not that, at all.
This trailer is a bit more accurate:
Except.. this lady wasn’t even in the movie, even though it is implied that she would be a major character.
I haven’t even gotten into the story yet and things are already falling apart.
So! The story. 48-year-old Fai (Nick Cheung), more commonly known as “Scumbag Fai,” is a down-and-out guy who has fled Hong Kong to avoid paying his 200,000HKD debt. He moves to Macau and gets a job working at a boxing studio run by his friend, where he serves as the janitor and cardio fitness coach for aging women. He was once a boxing pro in his youth, but his career ended quickly when he rigged a couple of fights and got in trouble with the law.
Fai’s friend finds him an apartment that is owned by a single mother, Gwen (Mei Ting), and her chatty daughter, Little Dan (Crystal Lee). Gwen is emotionally disturbed due to her husband’s abandonment and the death of her toddler.
Meanwhile, a young man named Qi (played by Taiwanese babe Eddie Peng), moves from China to Macau to find his father, who’s business recently failed. Qi spends his days working at a construction site and his nights piggybacking his inebriated dad home.
Hellllooo, nurse. (source)
One day, he decides to sign up for the “The Golden Rumble MMA Championship.” He enters the gym where Fai works and asks one of the coaches there to teach him how to cage fight. When asked of his experience, Qi replies that he has one year of taekwondo under his belt and is totally ready. He gets knocked out quickly in a sparring session and is turned away. One night, Qi witnesses Fai hitting the bags with expertise and asks Fai to train him. After some convincing, Fai agrees.
Fai begins to develop a caring relationship for Little Dan and her mother. He was a rude houseguest in the beginning, but after Little Dan reluctantly divulges her family history, Fai respects the house rules and patiently deals with Gwen’s outbreaks. He learns how to care again through his love for Little Dan and her mother, and reignites his old boxing spirit while training Qi.
Qi’s name gets drawn into the championship. His drive and stamina allow him to beat two boxers and become ringmaster of the game. The movie goes back and forth between the MMA tournament to Fai’s home life with his new family. Before Qi’s last and most crucial fight, the film abandons his storyline for a good 30 minutes to focus on Gwen and Little Dan.
Fai’s loan shark recognizes him on TV and manages to locate him. The loan shark and his gang enters their home and attacks the family. Gwen stabs a man in self defense and Little Dan suffers a concussion from falling down the stairs. She gets well but her mother is forced to retake several tests from social services, fails, and loses custody of her child. She is then sent to the asylum after she attempts to choke the social service lady.
At this point, I realize this film is long as fuck and am wondering about Qi, because Fai is spending a lot of time with the family—talking to the police, talking to the social workers, waiting for Gwen at the hospital…
Eventually, the film refocuses on Qi, now on his final fight. As ringmaster, he gives a motivating speech and vaguely mentions that he’s doing all of this for his father. Qi’s father had been following the fight on TV but makes his way into the actual arena to watch his son fight live.
Qi’s opponent is a vicious attacker (played by Chinese-American hottie Andy On), and commenters predict that Qi will lose.
During a break, Qi asks where Fai is. Nobody says anything and Qi is sent back in. He stubbornly refuses to give up even though he is completely exhausted. His opponent lifts him up and drops him on his back—neck first. Qi is sent to the hospital, where his dad comes around and decides to be a dad again.
When Fai finally learns that Qi is severely injured, he signs up for the tournament to avenge his pupil. He trains heavily for—I don’t know, a week?—and fatefully, his name is immediately drawn. He is sentenced to fight Qi’s opponent, who apparently is still ringmaster. Fai enters the ring with super chiseled abs.
After three rounds, Fai beats the other guy and wins the hearts of everyone! Oh yeah, and before this, Little Dan’s father meets with Fai to explain that Little Dan refuses to go with him. Fai tells her dad that if he wins the fight, she’ll have to go back to her father. After the fight, Fai and Little Dan hug tearfully and she tells him she’ll be back.
The movie ends with Fai giving his old boxing friend a bag of his winnings (Fai had bet on himself), to pay back his debts. He decides to stay in Macau and entertain Gwen in the mental asylum and possibly spend the rest of his life with her.
This film is clearly two movies smashed into one: 1) the relationship between an aging former boxer and his young pupil; 2) the love between a once troubled man and his new neighbors. The first half was a bit shaky as we juggle through these major story lines, but there were some funny and endearing moments that made it tolerable. Things collapse when the film struggles to climax all three narratives at once—Qi entering the tournament, Gwen’s loss of her daughter, and Fai avenging Qi. Qi’s relationship with his father was haphazardly thrown in there, too.
I think the film would have been much more successful if it were anything like what the first trailer suggested—a true MMA movie focusing on the relationship between Fai and Qi. Qi can thus develop his relationship with his father, which, we learn at the very end, was his entire motivation to enter the competition in the first place. Also, Fai entering the competition was poorly and hastily done as well. Rather than focus on that significant moment, the film chose to focus on Gwen and Little Dan instead, which made Fai’s progress extremely unrealistic and unbelievable. The side story completely overshadowed the main story.
I’m sure all these “rave reviews” were sponsored. In fact, this entire movie felt torn apart by plugs. I didn’t even mention the unnecessary locations—the movie began in Yunnan and Beijing—that added nothing to the plot. Also rolled my eyes at the huge dose of filial piety. The one thing that got me through this was the gratuitous, half-naked, sweaty men. If it wasn’t for all the grappling, the grunting, and bulging muscles, I would have given this 1 out of 5 stars. But thanks to all the hotties involved, I give it a 2 out of 5.