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Lost in Wrestling

Let the Bullets Fly

William Chan gets Lost in Wrestling.

Chinese: 搏擊奇緣  
Year: 2015
Director: Casey Chan Lai-Ying
Producer: Huang Si Qin Bi Le Ge, Casey Chan Lai-Ying
Writer: Casey Chan Lai-Ying, Jason Lam
Action:

Dion Lam Dik-On

Cast:

William Chan Wai-Ting, Siqin Gaowa, Zhao Ke, Li Feier, Li Yixin, Naoko Watanabe, Cheng Pei-Pei, Lau Siu-Ming, Alia, Lau Dan, Enkhtuvshin, B,Amaraaa, May Chan Ka-Kai

The Skinny: An odd amalgamation of elements including Mongolian wrestling, Sumo wrestling, girl fights, sweeping vistas and split personalities. As a film, the sum is less than several of its parts. While there are some nice visual moments and a few geo-cultural highlights, none of these elements are ever fully tapped into.
 
  Review
by
Paul Fox:
From director Casey Chan Lai-Ying, Lost in Wrestling begins with a panoramic, pastoral view of the Hulunbeier Prairie of Inner Mongolia (a province of China). It is here we are introduced to Naren, a female wrestler, in the middle of a match. With this opening one might get the sense that the concept was to focus on the less well-known "martial art" of Mongolian wrestling practiced in the region. But the film quickly shifts to a simultaneous Sumo wrestling tournament in Tokyo where a male wrestler named Akanashi is also engaged in a match. The parallel between these two wrestlers becomes a plot point later on, but this early establishment of geographically bouncing around becomes an aspect that remains fairly consistent throughout the film.

Naren is played by Mainland China actress Zhao Ke, who Hong Kong film fans may recall from roles in The Lost Bladesman (2011) and Love in Time (2012). Having been invited to Japan to wrestle, Naren hopes to encounter Chi-Na-Si (William Chan) the grandson of Granny Gold-Moon (Siqin Gaowa). Chi-Na-Si left for Japan years earlier at the age of 15 and the elder wises for his return to celebrate her 80th birthday.

However, upon arriving in Osaka, Naren finds placed in A3, a costumed all-female pro wrestling team consisting of herself, Mawako (Naoko Watanabe) and Moon Moon (Li Feier). The wrestling venue is run by a man known as Boss who sports a bowler hat, wears clown makeup and speaks in a manner that sometimes comes across as bad Joker cosplay. The Boss and his venue seem to revel in the exploitative nature of the girl fights, and Naren becomes quickly disillusioned with the whole thing.

Amidst this storyline, the film jumps around to side stories, flashbacks, and locales of interest. These include a foot reflexology shop in Osaka run by Granny Yuanyang (Cheng Pei-Pei), a back alley knife sharpener (Lau Siu-Ming) in Hong Kong, and a famous egg tart shop situated in Yau Ma Tei. These diversions serve to connect most of the onscreen characters in ways that often come across as more convenience than coincidence. The bigger suspension of disbelief, however, comes from the multiple characters William Chan is supposed to be portraying. The film never really tries to hide the fact that he is both Chi-Na-Si and Boss. But trying to sell the idea that he was also Akanashi, the aforementioned Sumo wrestler, is a bit of a stretch to say the least.

Had Lost in Wrestling been primarily about the nature of wrestling across various cultures, or had it simply spent more time with the actors in Inner Mongolia, it arguably would have been more noteworthy, at least cinematically. Instead, it explores personality disorders, awkward mommy issues and a love of egg tarts. On their own, none of these subplots are necessarily bad as potential character arcs. But rather than being lost "in" wrestling as a serious subject, we nearly lose wrestling altogether in favor of these far less interesting narrative devices.

To the film's credit, much of the cinematography (shot by veteran filmmaker Peter Ngor Chi-Kwan) in the Inner Mongolia sequences is truly beautiful. Also, the elder actors in those sequences are very charismatic. As such, itís a shame that a majority of the film isnít actually spent there. Lost in Wrestling also underwent the added expense of a 3D conversion, which never feels necessary. Perhaps a further point of technical criticism is the filmís use of sound which shifts from moments of sync sound to post dubbed studio sound depending on which actors are onscreen and which language they are speaking. While this is understandable given the range of actors and languages used, this switching back and forth tends to unbalance the audio as a whole, and the film would be better served with either a full sync or full post-dub approach.

Itís hard to pin down who the audience for Lost in Wrestling actually might be. It lacks the scripted quality of a film such as Japanís Sumo Do, Sumo Donít (1992), it doesn't convey a sense of cinematic passion for a martial art like in Throwdown (2004), and it doesn't have the low budget charm of Osaka Wrestling Restaurant (2004). Instead, it falls somewhere off the mainstream mat. This is not a film for everyone but perhaps, like pro wrestling itself, there are moments herein that can be enjoyed by a fan of offbeat films. (Paul Fox, 8/2016)

 
Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Language Track
Dolby Digital EX
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on 2D+3D Blu-ray Disc

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