Director: Ambrogio Kwok
Co-director: Ka Hei Kwok
Actors: Sun Zhen-Feng, Ken Lo, Zheng Zi-Ping, Venus Wong, Sam Lee, Raymond Chiu
Duration: 84 mins.
By Henry McKand
There is something weird Wild, the 2020 kickboxing film by Kwok Ka-Hei and Ambrose Kwok Yat-Choi. Then again, in a modern action climate dominated by assassins and digital blood splatter, maybe something’s off All films mainly relating to competitions and training montages. But Wild, with its focus on saccharine melodrama and dated sense of 2000s cool, mostly feels like a throwback to the days when cage fighting was a new underground subculture that the filmmakers were desperate to capitalize on. This will be more than enough for certain fight fanatics; your mileage may vary.
Young boxer Fok Kit, played by newcomer Sun Zhen-Feng, isn’t much different from hundreds of others The karate kidlight heroes. He is young, stubborn and kind-hearted. His coach, played by Jackie Chan’s stunt team veteran Ken Lo, talks about what you’d expect from his coach, who wants only the best for his students. When he’s threatened with losing his gym (there is no way!)agrees to let Fok Kit fight an infamous Thai “killing machine” (Zheng Zi-Ping) for to raise the money they need to maintain their dojo.
What follows is a journey of many, many ups and downs as near-crippling wounds threaten our heroes and old rivalries resurface. That’s not to mention the romantic subplot involving an up-and-coming actress (Venus Wong) who comes to the gym to train for an action role even as she faces harassment from a lecherous director. This story, though not without interest, takes up a considerable part of the only 84-minute running time. Lightness is usually a gift in this type of film, but it’s hard to shake this feeling Wild it’s racing through the expected (and some less expected) beats as well.
It’s not like storytelling is just a delivery method for fight scenes. In fact, there’s a surprisingly low amount of fighting for a production set explicitly in this world. This is the kind of film that is more interested in its fights as metaphors for training lessons in perseverance and loyalty. This isn’t a problem per se, but the texture here isn’t strong enough to hold it all up. It’s almost as if they don’t have the resources or the time to score several set pieces. For a movie titled “Unleashed,” it certainly feels a little secretive.
When the boxers actually get into the ring, mostly at the beginning and end of the film, the results are mixed. The choreography is impressive, even if it doesn’t break the mold. The performers know what they’re doing and there’s a visceral power to the grabs and takedowns. When two opponents desperately grab each other on the mat, it feels like a real fight unfolding. There’s some inspired camera movement too, and the slow-mo sequences look really decent.
The problem lies in the editing, which is sometimes too hectic for its own good. The trend of one-shot action scenes has been exaggerated to the point of ludicrousness, and there’s nothing wrong with using clever cuts to augment the choreography (just watch some classic Golden Harvest movies to remind yourself of that), but Wild he could have benefited from slowing down and letting the choreography speak for itself.
No, the fights here are far from the others, unrelated Wild (Jet Li’s initial burst of violence in that film is better than anything here), but the aesthetic is at times closer to 2005 than 2020. The cinematography gives it a modern, digital feel, but the attempts to capture the “street” culture through music and youth fashion is straight out of the book of twenty years. The score itself is a mix of 2011 rock and EDM-adjacent dubstep, and the pubescent masculinity of its “nightclub” fight scenes, complete with bikini-clad women dancing on tables, is reminiscent of early Fast & Furious entries.
It’s mostly charming, even if it’s eye-rolling. All the forced “bravado” quickly gives way to what is ultimately a family sports film about the fight for your found family. It’s a low-stakes film that could serve as a respite from the more violent and serious DTV entries on the market. Sadly, the lack of bold narrative choices or memorable combat ideas make it little more than a pleasant diversion.
Henry McKeand rating: 5/10