Fatal Move (2008) Review

"Fatal Move" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Fatal Move" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Duo Shuai
Director: Dennis Law Sau Yiu
Cast: Sammo Hung Kam Bo, Simon Yam Tat Wah, Tien Niu, Danny Lee Sau Yin, Jacky Wu Jing, Eddie Cheung Siu Fai, Maggie Siu Mei Kei, Lam Suet, Ken Lo, Pinky Cheung Man Chi, Jacky Heung Cho, Fung Hak On, Hui Siu Hung
Running Time: 116 min.

By HKFanatic

Dennis Law may just be the most incompetent director working in Hong Kong. And yet, much like HK’s other trash auteur Wong Jing, he continually manages to draw top tier talent to his films. Take a look at “Fatal Move’s” star-studded cast: Sammo Hung, Simon Yam, Danny Lee, Wu Jing. These are some of the biggest names in Hong Kong.

The film also features supporting turns from several actors who have become synonymous with the cops ‘n Triads genre: Eddie Cheung, Ken Lo, and Milkyway veterans like Lam Seut and Hui Siu. One would think that for a director to nab such A-list players, he himself would have to exude vision as a filmmaker. But time and time again, Dennis Law flounders behind the camera.

Both this film and Law’s 2010 effort “Bad Blood” follow the same general plot: a Triad organization is tearing itself apart from the inside due to money-grubbing and betrayal. The story is almost impossible to follow beyond this most basic thread. Sammo Hung plays the head of the Triad – a calm and fatherly man who can also order an execution as nonchalantly as if he was asking for tea.

The presence of Sammo, Simon Yam, and Wu Jing in a Triad setting makes “Fatal Move” feel something like a spiritual successor to 2005’s excellent “Sha Po Lang” (AKA “Killzone”). Derek Yee actually began writing the script as a prequel to “SPL,” which would have depicted Sammo’s character’s rise to power. He eventually scrapped the idea when it proved limiting but the story he came up instead with is almost too mundane to be committed to celluloid. Without Donnie Yen onscreen or Wilson Yip handling directorial duties, “Fatal Move” pales in comparison to its companion film.

This movie is characterized by long, drawn out dialogue scenes that go nowhere; constant under-acting; and bland camera set-ups. The film is curiously underscored: too many scenes are filled with awkward silences as the actors look at each other or painfully wait for their next dialogue beat. Then again, what music is here is pretty generic and awful sounding, so whether there’s crickets behind Simon Yam’s flat performance or a generic electronic drumbeat, the audience still suffers.

Of course, it would be a lot easier to forgive bland dialogue and lifeless acting in a Triad movie if the action scenes delivered. And the action in “Fatal Move,” choreographed by Nicky Li Chung of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, is actually quite good. Chung previously directed the action on movies like “Gen X Cops” and “New Police Story,” not to mention “Rush Hour” and “Who Am I?” However, here more so than in any other Hong Kong movie I can recall, the action is undermined by an excessive use of computer-generated effects. So while it’s awesome to see Wu Jing charge into a gang battle with a samurai sword and start hacking off people’s limbs left and right, the fact that everything looks so digital takes away from the impact. “Fatal Move” is a bloody movie, there’s no doubt about that, but more than 90% of the blood is CGI.

The standout scene in “Fatal Move” occurs at around the half-way mark, when up-and-coming actor Jacky Heung (“Fearless,” “True Legend“) leaps from an overpass and lands on top of a car to engage in one of the most brutal Triad assassinations ever captured on film. Dressed in a frilly white jacket and wielding some kind of deadly axe-boomerang, Jacky Heung makes for a fierce killer, despite the fact that he’s obviously doubled at most points. It’s a scene-stealing moment with great choreography that doesn’t rely too much on special effects. If only the rest of the movie had this same kinetic energy.

The film ends with a one-on-one battle between Sammo Hung and Wu Jing, the only fight that Sammo has the entire movie. If you’re willing to put up with how bad the rest of “Fatal Move” is, this is a match-up worth watching. Their battle is proceeded by an incredibly drawn out, hysteric monologue from actress Tien Niu that had me reaching for ear plugs and the reasons behind the fight itself make absolutely no sense, but still…it’s Sammo vs. Wu Jing! The choreography is excellent and Wu Jing is clearly at the top of his game, even if Sammo is clearly doubled by a much more svelte stunt man at times.

It’s difficult to imagine who will be satisfied by “Fatal Move.” Viewers searching for a gripping Triad drama will be put off by the manga-esque level of violence and Wu Jing’s asymmetrical emo haircut. Action junkies will be forced to endure the film’s meandering pace, with the fighting parsed out across a lengthy two hour runtime. Even fans of Sammo or Simon Yam won’t get to see their heroes truly act; virtually everyone in the cast registers as a non-presence thanks to a weak script that gives them nothing to do. I can’t say I recommend this film unless you’re absolutely dying to see the Sammo vs. Wu Jing fight. Even then, no one would hold it against you if you just YouTubed it.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 5.5/10

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