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Fate Fighter

(left) Nick Cheung and Kristy Yeung, and (right) Alex To in Fate Fighter.
Year: 2003  
Director: Steve Cheng Wai-Man  
Producer: Ng Kin-Hung  
Cast: Nick Cheung Ka-Fai, Kristy Yeung Kung-Yu, Alex To Tak-Wai, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Tricia Chan Kin-Fei, Anson Leung Chun-Yat, Rico Kwok Lik-Hung, Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting, Joe Junior, Amanda Lee Wai-Man, Michael Chow Man-Kin, Claire Yiu Ka-Nei, Thomas Lam Cho-Fai
The Skinny: More gambling highjinks with Nick Cheung! Sadly, the result barely matches his worst efforts, and features bad production values, nonsensical antics, and uninteresting (over)acting. Where the hell is Wong Jing when you need him?
by Kozo:
     Hong Kong returns to the well, except this time the well-drinker isn't Wong Jing. Hong Kong's tackiest auteur may be behind nearly all gambling flicks since the early nineties, but Fate Fighter arrives courtesy of producer Ng Kin-Hung and director Steve Cheng Wai-Man. Usual Wong Jing cohort Nick Cheung is the lead, and the title bears the familar do hap (gambling hero) Chinese characters. One would hope that Fate Fighter is better than the last HK gambling effort, The Conman 2002. But despite the fact that Conman 2002 was an all-out turkey AND Wong Jing is absent from the credits, Fate Fighter IS NOT better than Conman 2002. Our disappointment cannot be accurately measured.
     Nick Cheung is Leung, a poor guy with enormously bad luck. He lives with Uncle Three (Alfred Cheung) and barely ekes out a living in odd jobs. Luckily he has two things going for him: old childhood pal Fa (an uncharacteristically dour Kristy Yeung) and some amazing gambling skills which strangely enough have never been exploited. All that changes when he gets drawn into the web of sinister gambler/corporate bigwig Yat (Alex To), who is actually Leung's long-lost half brother. It seems they were birthed on the same day by different mothers to the same superstitious father, but unfortunately everything backfired and it all went to hell. The brothers separated, one (Yat) led a charmed life and the other (Leung) lived on the scraps of others. Fate can be cruel.
     Or so it would seem. According to Yat's resident Feng Shui expert (Joe Junior), there's a Storm Riders-type prophecy at hand. After thirty years, one brother's luck will run out while the other's will flourish, so Yat schemes to steal Leung's luck back. Or maybe it's really the Feng Shui expert's scheme, or the multitude of strange double-crossing characters. Or could it be the resident femme fatale (Trisha Chan in a singularly lousy performance), and what about wacky gambling institution escapee Sam Lee? And why does Sam Lee mime fellatio on a banana, and attempt to make out with Nick Cheung all the time? What's the secret behind Kristy Yeung always covering one side of her face with her hair? And does any of this throw-it-at-the-wall screenwriting have a point?
     Not surprisingly, the answer is no. Dissecting the "plot" of Fate Fighter would be like separating the yolk from the white in your scrambled eggs: totally impossible and something only a madman would attempt. There are some attempts at interesting concepts (cool gambling skills, an actual backstory), but everything falls apart thanks to the production's wayward focus. Jokes appear out of nowhere, characters come and go, and nobody behaves in a consistent fashion. Leung is too bland a protagonist to hold the audience's interest. His good-natured, loyal personality is supposed to make him inherently likable, which is no big stretch for Nick Cheung. At the same time it makes him rather uninteresting, and as compelling as moldy bread. If Leung is supposed to be a gambling hero, then somebody forgot the hero part.
     The other actors do help compensate for Nick Cheung's underwritten role. Alex To overacts with abandon, Kristy Yeung fulfills the eye candy quotient, and Sam Lee is Sam Lee. On the other hand, annoying side characters (newcomers Rico Kwok and Anson Leung should be shot), nonsensical interludes (Sam Lee spying on Nick Cheung in the shower?), bad production values (egregious ambient sound), and nonexistent storytelling (Did anyone who watched this movie care about the characters?) make Fate Fighter a total loss. Director Steve Cheng did some decent work with last year's Sleeping with the Dead, but none of that film's underlying emotion is present in Fate Fighter. Blaming it on the script (or lack thereof) might be appropriate.
      Still, if anyone really wanted to make a good gambling film, then they should have done this: call Wong Jing. Asking for Wong Jing's help might sound like a sign of the Apocalypse, but the guy made some very, very entertaining gambling flicks in his time. Though Wong was given to crass humor, annoying silliness, and questionable political correctness, he did seem to get the gambling genre. His heroes were charismatic, the stories full of overwrought emotion and doublecrosses, and the gambling was actually fun to watch. Fate Fighter attempts to make things interesting with nifty bullet-time effects and impossible card-playing skills, but the gambling scenes contain almost zero tension. That's right: the gambling scenes are bad. And that's in addition to the uninteresting characters, illogical story, poor cinematography, lousy writing, and generally ineffective acting. Yes, it cannot be said more plainly: Fate Fighter is a bad movie. Get some sleep instead. (Kozo 2003)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Universe Laser and Video Co., Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen