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Kung Fu Fighter

"These wires give me amazing power!"     

(left) Vanness Wu takes on Louis Fan, and (right) Emme Wong and Chan Kwok-Kwan.

Chinese: 功夫無敵
Year: 2007
Director: Yip Wing-Kin

Jeremy K.P. Cheung, Song Dai

Action: Louis Fan Siu-Wong

Vanness Wu, Lam Chi-Chung, Chan Kwok-Kwan, Tin Kai-Man, Emme Wong Yi-Man, Bruce Leung Siu-Lung, Louis Fan Siu-Wong, Lee Wai (Li Hui), Zhang Jin, Cheung Man-Kit

The Skinny: Kung Fu Fighter apes Kung Fu Hustle for no obvious reason other than to make some ancillary dough. Too bad the movie is so dull.
by Kozo:

It's cheap cinema deja vu. The My Way Films-produced martial arts movie Kung Fu Fighter looks enormously like Kung Fu Hustle, from the English title to the Chinese title font, to the costumes, sets, situations, and even the actors, many of whom were in Kung Fu Hustle, and some play similar roles here. Lam Chi-Chung is the portly sidekick, while Chan Kwok-Kwan is a suit-wearing, goatee-sporting gang boss. Tin Kai-Man was Chan Kwok-Kwan's lackey in Kung Fu Hustle, but here he's a gang boss. Leung Siu-Lung, the big bad from Kung Fu Hustle gets a role-reversal and plays a good guy this time. And lovely Lee Wai, who wasn't in Kung Fu Hustle, but appeared as the girl who slipped on a banana peel in Shaolin Soccer, shows up as a cheongsam-wearing bad girl. There's your Six Degrees of Stephen Chow update, which may constitute 25% of the audience's interest in Kung Fu Fighter.

Another 25% of the audience's interest is probably reserved for Vanness Wu, the uberhot member of JVKV (formerly known as F4). Wu stars in the film as Manik, a nice kid who left his home in the sticks to visit bustling Shanghai. He's looking for his father, whose problems with nefarious individuals led to the death of Manik's mother. Manik seems like a swell fellow whose personality screams "vanilla", but when he gets provoked, he demonstrates uncommon kung-fu ability and sometimes a murderous, Hulk-like rage. When Manik hulks out, it provides an opportunity for his shirt to come flying off, which will probably earn an immediate thumbs up from Vanness Wu's female fan base. Wu is chiseled but not charismatic as Manik, and doesn't seem to star in the picture as much as simply wander through it. For all his movie star looks, Wu is a remarkably passive performer, and barely registers as the star of Kung Fu Fighter.

Then again, that passiveness may be a problem of the whole film, in that it introduces numerous plotlines and characters, and fails to make any of them compelling. Besides Manik's generic "looking for daddy" plotline, there's a snore-worthy rivalry between mob bosses Don Ching (Chan Kwok-Kwan), and Sam Cho (Tin Kai-Man). Don also has a long-suffering girlfriend named Goldie (Emme Wong), a showgirl who struts her stuff during a poorly edited musical performance, and even befriends Manik in an obligatory attempt at character connection. Meanwhile, Sam Cho is pissed at Manik and pal Porky (Lam Chi-Chung) for some reason or another, but they take refuge in an inn populated by hidden martial arts masters, all led by Bruce Leung Siu-Leung. Seeking revenge, Sam hires a bunch of other martial artists, led by an amusing Louis Fan, who plays a super-supreme martial artist and also does double duty as the film's action director. The above is all very generic and strung together with the barest of narrative need, meaning it all connects, but in a limp and uninteresting manner. Likely audience interest for the film's story: 0%.

Which leads to the final 50% of audience interest: action. Even though Kung Fu Fighter has only a generic story and uninteresting acting, all would be forgiven if they can serve up some tasty action sequences, right? Well, the filmmakers certainly try, though their efforts are only are only half-successful. Louis Fan delivers some nifty choreography during the numerous fight sequences, but much of the action feels slow and not very exciting. Part of the problem is the cinematography, which is murky and muddled, and another is simply that the players are never defined enough to make the fisticuffs all that interesting. Besides Vanness Wu, Louis Fan, and Bruce Leung, most of the actors are unfamiliar and barely get enough screentime to register as more than colorless character types. The "inn full of kung-fu masters" gimmick is good for some anticipation, and some of the staging is clever. Also, the fighting is a step up from the heavily-edited stuff one usually sees in popstar-filled fight movies. But without a narrative need or charismatic actors, whatever creativity that exists seems to fall flat. When the movie finally ends, yawning could be a likely response.

Who's to blame for this? Probably the producers, who should have created an all-out parody of Kung Fu Hustle instead of a vaguely similar copycat with needless similarities to the Stephen Chow blockbuster. Director Yip Wing-Kin should shoulder some blame too, because the direction is so uninspired that it could lead to the audience becoming narcoleptic. There are plenty of opportunities in Kung Fu Fighter for the cool or unexpected to take place (any film with hidden kung-fu masters has the chance for coolness) but the whole production seems to lack creative spark and energy. Kung Fu Fighter is simply dull, which is pretty much the kiss of death for any film purporting to qualify as entertainment. Overall, there isn't much reason to seek out Kung Fu Fighter, unless you miss Stephen Chow so much that you'll shell out money for a film starring a bunch of his friends plus the cute guy from Dragon Squad who wasn't Shawn Yue. If you meet the above criteria, then congratulations, this movie is for you, as is any regret that comes with seeing it. (Kozo 2007)

Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 0 NTSC
Tai Seng Home Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles

images courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen