“Fatal Contact” – A.J. Hakari

I’m always nervous to proclaim a great martial artist just hitting the cinema scene as the next Jackie Chan or Jet Li. I’m tempted to say such a thing in regards to the Dragon Dynasty release Fatal Contact and its star, Wu Jing, and while he’s not quite ready to take center stage as the next great martial arts icon, this film certainly proves to be one hell of an audition.

 

In this modern-day tale, Wu Jing plays Kong, a gifted kung fu expert who puts his talents to good use in acrobatic shows. The downside is that this hasn’t exactly translated into a huge income, so despite some initial reluctance, Kong takes up an offer to participate in an underground boxing match held by gangster boss Fai (Kris Gu). Right away, our hero’s skills help him to gracefully pummel all comers, raking in more dough with each successive bout and pressed onward in his ascent up the underground fighting ladder by his greedy gal pal Tin (Miki Yeung). But as it turns out, Kong has arrived just as a rival gangster (Kenneth Low) has emerged with a bone to pick with Fai, demanding to pit his street fighters against Fai’s in a winner-take-all grudge match. Tin assures him that he has what it takes to fight his way to victory, but it’s when the normally congenial Kong has to tap into his dark side to take on his more extreme opponents that just might prove to be the fella’s undoing.

 

In recent years, I’ve come closer and closer to realizing, thanks to certain Chinese films, that America must be a scruples-free nation. Happy endings are awarded to even the most devilish of rogues, morally-shifty characters whose lives turn out pretty damn good as long as they don’t act too evil. Not so for certain characters that inhabit Fatal Contact, who, much like those in A World Without Thieves, get doled out fates that might be confusing as hell to viewers of a more western persuasion. It’s nice to know that the filmmakers wanted to tack on something resembling a moral and not just serve up almost two hours’ worth of mindless violence, but they played their hand way too strongly and eventually find their third act being assaulted by a melodramatic version of the Kraken. Also serving as a distraction is a subplot in which Tin keeps breaking away to converse with — well, someone; that’s the thing, you never know who in the hell this woman is that she keeps talking to, only that they switch loyalties and emotions as if writer/director Dennis Law were flipping a switch offscreen.

 

Still, when one accuses a martial arts movie for being a little wonky in the plot department, it’s a little like yelling at snow for being so damned white. It’s only natural, as the real star of Fatal Contact are the fight sequences, which are right as rain in comparison to the over-the-top final scenes. There are no jaw-dropping stunts a la Tona Jaa here, but there are plenty of moments that show off Wu Jing’s fancy footwork extremely well. The highlights include a rumble in a tunnel with about a dozen other guys and the aforementioned grudge match that pits Kong and two of Fai’s other fighters against a trio of the rival gangster’s most burly warriors — one of whom spices things up with some strategically-placed nails. Fatal Contact isn’t an overtly violent film, displaying a scant few instances of blood, but the moves contained within are impressive to behold, and the graceful, yet kickass demeanor in which Wu Jing carries himself strongly echoes the early work of the great Jackie Chan.

 

There are some plot issues that definitely detract from the experience of watching Fatal Contact, but the important thing is that on the whole, the flick proves to be one swift and entertaining ride. Plus, considering some of the movies Jackie Chan has been in lately, it’s not all too unreasonable to start calling up Wu Jing and giving him more western exposure on the double.

 

Rating: ★★★☆

 

-A.J. Hakari

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