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Original Title:
Hak kuen

Hong Kong 2006

Martial Arts, Drama

Dennis Law

Wu Jing
Miki Yeung
Ronald Cheng
Theresa Fu
Cheung Siu-Fai
Lam Suet
Andy On
Hui Shiu Hung
Marco Lok
Ken Lo
Lu Sze-Ming

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Fatal Contact

Story: Kong (Wu Jing) travels the country with a circus and demonstrates his martial arts skills. Being raised under poor circumstances in mainland China he has his heart at the right place and therefore rejects an offer of a small-time gangster organisation that wants him to participate in illegal street fights. However, Tin (Miki Yeung), a girl who works with him at the circus, eventually can talk him into it so that he joins the fights. Tin seems to be a young material girl, but Kong who has feelings for her doesn't realize that in some respects he is just being used by her, and so he henceforth is at her bidding.
Kong's extraordinary expertise in martial arts lets him defeat any opponent he has to face with ease. His victories are even so numerous that the small-time gangster organisation which arranges the fights is overtaken by a bigger organisation who wants to earn even more cash with Kong. The new competition isn't really acceptable for another gang boss and so Kong has to face more and more dangerous enemies. Luckily, he has yet to exploit his full potential and if he wouldn't do so as soon as possible the fights could become deadly for him. Captain (Ronald Cheng), one of Kong's new friends, proves to be a good tutor and so Kong gets even better with time and lots of training. However, Kong sinks in a swamp of violence without even noticing, while Tin still is only thinking of the money.

Review: "Fatal Contact" is first and foremost a martial arts film that wants to bring the impressive skills of Wu Jing on the big screen. Since Jing's successful appearance in "SPL" (he also were to be seen in several other productions, yet most of them were only for TV) his fanbase grew bigger and bigger and the voices that demanded to see more of him became louder. "Fatal Contact" is the answer to these demands and at the same time the first movie, in which Wu Jing plays the leading role... well, at least almost. That is, because oftentimes he is overshadowed by the more dramatic aspect of the film, embodied by Miki Yeung and some comedy brought into play by Ronald Cheng.
Nonetheless, Jing shows that he has great on-screen charisma and he proves that one day he might be the one to replace the likes of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, since these two also don't get any younger. After watching this movie there won't be anyone that will doubt Jings martial arts skills, that much is for sure.

Before going into any details it has to be pointed out that from a cinematic perspective "Fatal Contact" is a bit disappointing. Somehow one had hoped for something better. But it was merely a wish, because as not to be expected otherwise the script has quite some flaws. Martial arts fans, the audience the movie mainly addresses to, will absolutely get their money's worth, and that's all that is important, isn't it?
To combine good action with a well-done story still seems to be too much asked for.
Let's first take a look at the film's weaknesses, which definitely lie within the script. Of course, you feel reminded of so many beat-em-up flicks and somehow also of those Jean-Claude Van Damme B-movies. Still, at times the story tries really hard to become more profound and dramatic, which is really a plus for the overall picture. Yet, it fails when it comes to the dialogues and the director who just doesn't seem to know how to combine these dramatic aspects with the rest of the movie.

Miki Yeung, member of the popgroup "Cookies" plays the girl Tin, who is incredibly materialistic and egoistic, thus almost pleads us to ask her of her tragic background story, which made her the way she is. During the movie she actually tells us about it. Yeung also does a pretty decent job and almost single-handedly is responsible for bearing the dramatic aspect of the film. Later on, she gets help from Theresa Fu, also a member of the group "Cookies", who plays a prostitute without any perspective in life. The dialogues let us take a closer look at Tin's mind, yet the interlaced and confusing dialogues just get really annoying at some point. It becomes obvious that the script writer himself wasn't too sure anymore what he acually wanted to say. This is especially harmful to the tragic aspect of the film, which becomes even more apparent when towards the end the drama somewhat suddenly kicks in again whereas we aren't really prepared for what is coming.

Moreover, Tin's character is sometimes very inconsistent. During the more funny scenes she seems to be a very sympathic person, but when she is boisterously cheering for Kong while he beats up his enemy in the most brutal fashion, so that even he is shocked about his own inner dark side at that moment, Tin looks really detestable. If one had the chance one would have liked to take Kong aside and give him the advice to let the girl go.
Wu Jing plays a man blinded by love, who looks a bit naive and simple-minded, but for the same reasons also proves to be a nice guy. Later on, he shows more of his darker side and still, apart from some scenes at the end, it shines through only slightly and isn't really apparent. Some more complexity of his character would have been desirable.
On an acting level Ronald Cheng is the man of the movie. Also being one of the numerous Canto-Popstars who now chose to be an actor, he was known for his comedic roles. Here, it's not any different, yet his performance is a lot more multi-layered and worthwhile than what one would have expected. Actually, he is the most interesting character in the whole movie and outplays everyone on screen.

In the fight scenes, there is only one star, naturally: Wu Jing (sometimes also credited as Jacky Wu). For this movie he underwent some special Sanda-training, despite the fact that he is already skilled in several martial arts styles. Sanda literally means free fighting and distinguishes itself from other styles by its directness and effectivity. It's not a coincidence that some of the moves look like being from Muai Thai boxing, however, Sanda also has several powerful throws.
Wu Jing leaves no doubt about it that he is the new star at the martial arts horizon. He is fast, powerful and acrobabatic. The fights are all very brutal and in-your-face style, nonetheless there is no lack of (even though bloody) aesthetics. In one single shot Jing fires complex punch-ellbow combos at his enemy, at other times he executes incredible spinkicks and uses interesting throwing moves. Every now and then there is some wire-work involved, but generally "Fatal Contact" is one of those rare movies that place emphasis on true martial arts action, without trying to look to slick. And it works pretty well, because the fights are real eyecandies.

The entertainment factor is just right, too. The pacing is always appropriate, the fights are scattered throughout the movie very balanced and so there is almost no draging concerning the pacing. Even though there are some funny moments inserted throughout the film, Dennis Law's work mainly is a very gloomy and dark product, especially concerning the cinematography. The director who was formerly active as a producer for movies like "Election", however, makes the big mistake to put too much emphasis on unimportant details.
The biggest flaw of "Fatal Contact" is that the movie just isn't cohesive. At first you think that this is just a film meant to entertain the viewer, but then some drama kicks in and eventually we have to find out that the protagonists are about to drown in a swamp of violence and crime. Despite all the hints the typical Hong Kong ending hits the screen a bit too suddenly and moreover feels inappropriate. Here, you can see best that the script really would have needed some more work.

Because of the below-average script and the halfbaked product we get, it would be wrong to recommend this flick to film lovers. "Fatal Contact" might be entertaining, yet can't come up with anything special. However, martial arts fans will definitely get their money's worth and won't get enough of the fight scenes and Wu Jing's skills!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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