Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate
editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author
of The Hong Kong Filmography.
Cheung Chau resident Tide (Daniel Wu Yan-zu) is visited by police with news that his brother, Tan (Louis Koo Tin-lok), has been found beaten to death in Hong Kong. Learning that his sibling had been participating in underground boxing matches, Tide decides to learn more about Tan's fate by visiting his apartment. There, he encounters Sandy (HIT TEAM's Jo Kuk Cho-lam), his brother's old girlfriend, who is slowly losing her eyesight. At this point, the film begins alternating between flashbacks detailing Tan's life and present-day sequences. Tan became friends with swaggering, small-potato triad Mann (Patrick Tam Yiu-man), who got him involved in the matches; now Tide asks that Mann do the same for him, so that he can fight the American responsible for his brother's death.
From left to right: Patrick Tam Yiu-man, Daniel Wu Yan-zu and Jo Kuk Cho-lam. Image courtesy China Star.
Patrick Leung Pak-kin's SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1996) was a stylish but empty-headed amalgam of boxing movie cliches that ended up being little more than a grotesque vanity piece for its star, Aaron Kwok Fu-shing. BORN WILD is Leung's second trip into the ring and it has all the style of his first go around but only a tiny bit more substance. Neither Koo nor Wu are very engaging and the same can be said of their characters (who are supposed to be fraternal twins with opposite personalities, a plot device that fails because the two actors' performances are completely interchangeable). However, Patrick Tam is exceptional, imbuing the film with almost all of its spirit and essence. Jo Kuk is also very convincing but her character melts into the background in the second half and ends up being far less pivotal than one initially suspects. Although the movie benefits enormously from their prescence, BORN WILD still ends up being undone by its tediously overstylized combat sequences (there is so much editing and artifice, anyone could seem like a halfway competent fighter here), hanging plot threads, and a truly ludicrous climax. A quasi-metaphyiscal post-script reveals Leung's grander intentions for the project but one wishes he would have been content with delivering a picture that attained a few more basic goals. Chang Guo-chu, veteran kung fu star Pai Ying / Pak Ying, and Lawrence Cheng Tan-sui are among the supporting cast.
BORN WILD is available at Poker Industries.