Unbeatable packs a real solid punch

Action drama/121 minutes

Rating: 4/5

There's much abuzz about the sculpted bodies of the film's leading men, Nick Cheung and Eddie Peng.

For their roles in Unbeatable, the duo painstakingly trained for the mixed martial arts scenes in the movie.

Beyond the hot bods, director Dante Lam does a fine job weaving in a moving plot to complement the action.

The story is set in Macau and revolves around down-and-out boxing champion Ching Fai (played by Cheung), who takes the eager Lin Siqi (played by Peng) under his wing.

Both are bogged down with emotional baggage. Ching's past is thoughtfully revealed through intermittent flashbacks.

An exasperated Lin is trying to help his father, a bankrupt tycoon with a drinking problem, get back on his feet, while the jaded Ching is filled with regrets stemming from misdeeds committed during his boxing career.

While the characters are penned with familiar back stories, one gets drawn into the movie watching the convincing acting of Peng and Cheung.

The high-octane fighting scenes kept me on the edge of my seat: the no-holds-barred fighting look very much like the real deal.

The grimaces on the faces of fighters Ching and Lin as they endure backbreaking injuries make their pain almost palpable.

The intense action is peppered with light-hearted moments during the training stages. The muscular mentor and his pupil share a cheeky peck on the lips while wrestling each other to the ground.

But it is Ching's unlikely relationship with a young fellow tenant, Dani (played by Malaysian child actress Crystal Lee), that hits a soft spot.

The pair exchange easy banter and end up sharing an inextricable bond as the singleton Ching becomes a surrogate father to Dani, who is forced by family circumstances to take care of her mentally-unstable mother.

The impish actress proves she can hold her own among the grown-ups - both in and outside the film.

The precocious child star is much like her character Dani and pulls off a convincing act as a child putting up a fiesty front to hide her vulnerability. It's no wonder she clinched the title of best actress at the Shanghai International Film Festival two months ago.

Cheung also impressed in this film, and he clinched the best-actor award.

A minor quibble is that the movie's pace was slowed down by omissible side stories, like Lin's almost-non-existent love interest.

But, overall, the movie packs a punch with its solid cast - and, of course, the cast members' solid abs.

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