After the phenomenal success of 2005's SPL, Wu Jing has quickly becomes among the most hot-on-demand martial arts actors destined for superstardom. In his first starring role since the ill-fated TAI CHI 2 way back in 1996, Dennis S.Y. Law's FATAL CONTACT is a martial arts action drama that showcases Wu's physical prowess to the max. The result is fairly entertaining, but FATAL CONTACT is also a hugely uneven movie that bogged down with too many protracted melodrama, corny love story and unusually last-minute twist (more on that later).
Kong (Wu Jing) is a traveling circus performer from China who's touring Hong Kong to earn better living. One night, he is spotted by a triad boss Ma (Eddie Cheung) who is particularly impressed with his lightning-fast martial arts performance on the stage and wants Kong to fight for him on the underground boxing circuit. But Kong rejects his offer since he knows underground boxing is illegal and if caught, he will be risking being expelled from Chinese national team. However, Siu Tin (Miki Yeung), a cute-looking girl who has a secret crush with Kong, urges him to take up the underground boxing since the pay is very good. Kong eventually agrees to participate, where he make full use of his martial arts prowess to take down his opponent, while Siu Tin is in charge of managing and negotiating the bet. After an impressive fight, Ma is very pleased with Kong's performance and sets up one of his men, Captain (Ronald Cheng) to offer Kong and Siu Tin a place to stay and some extra cash for other necessities. Captain is a low-level gangster who swindles his way of living by performing magic tricks in front of his fellow colleagues but deep down, he is actually a humble kungfu master. When he noticed the way Kong's fight is not brutal enough, he begins to tutor him how to fight as mean as possible. Both Captain and Kong eventually become good friends, while Kong is subsequently falling hard for Siu Tin. Fight after fight, Kong has won plenty of money but things take a sharp turn when Siu Tin reveals herself as a gold-digger after all. Her so-called love with Kong is actually based on material desire and life is all about being smart and makes a lot of money.
Dennis S.Y. Law's screenplay is not just a merely straightforward action movie about underground boxing. In fact, he tries so hard to be very ambitious as well. Aside from inserting comedy and romance into the mix, he also wants the viewers to feel about the dark moralities that exploits the worst side of human nature (particularly the one involving Siu Tin). Such meaty approach is usually rare to be seen for Hong Kong movie but one must applaud that Dennis S.Y. Law is at least tries to be different. Unfortunately, being different is one thing. At two-hour long, the movie simply drags a lot. Apparently Dennis S.Y. Law prefers most of his scene to be shot in long takes (especially during melodramatic moments) that it's just painful to sit through until one might wished to hit fast-forward instead and get to the point. It doesn't help either when the story is too verbose. There are just too many talks about everything philosophical, and almost hardly engages into visual narration instead. And as mentioned earlier, the movie takes a sharp turn on a last-minute twist throughout the climactic finale. For an action movie like FATAL CONTACT, you would have naturally expected to be an all-hell-breaks-loose martial arts showdown. Instead, it's such a surprise that this movie ends up one of the most shockingly dull anticlimactic finale ever seen in recent memory. The twist, of course, involves around the true color of Siu Tin's hidden agenda. Make no mistake, it's actually something provocative except that it feels like it belongs to a different movie altogether. To make things even worse, the eventual ending is particularly so depressing it will leaves you speechless and of course, very frustrated.
As for the cast, the actors are quite exceptional. Wu Jing's role is likable while his screen presence during martial arts sequence (where he trains Sanda in Beijing for the sake of the movie) is engaging enough to keep the action fans happy. His naive character also suits his wooden style of acting well enough, though he's still far away from becoming a worthy leading man status. The rest of the cast are equally credible, but the real surprise comes from Ronald Cheng and Miki Yeung. The usually-annoying Ronald Cheng almost steals the show as Captain. His comic timing is hilarious but thankfully not irritating, while his somewhat subdued performance in some parts is quite admirable. As for Miki Yeung, her two-dimensional character as Siu Tin manages to bring some necessary depth to her dramatic acting chops with equal flair.
In the meantime, Li Chung-Chi's action choreography is grounded with less wirework and throughout impressive. It's just too bad the final fight sequence between Kong and a Portland street fighter (Timmy Hung) is simply unsatisfying and very disappointing.