A Fighter's Blues (2000)

Directed by: Daniel Lee
Written by: Daniel Lee & Cheung Chi-Sing
Producers: Andy Lau, Derek Yee & Ga Jan
Starring: Andy Lau, Tokako Tokiwa, Intira Jaroenpura & Apichaya Thanalthanapong

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2001:
Best Actor (Andy Lau)
Best Cinematography (Keung Kwok-Man)
Best Editing (Chung Wai Chiu)

After 13 years in prison, kickboxer Mong Fu (Andy Lau from Fulltime Killer) is released and decides to go to Thailand to look for his, back then, girlfriend Pim (Intira Jaroenpura). They had a short but intense relationship just prior to Mong Fu's imprisonment but it sadly turns out that she has died at the hands of Thai drug dealers. Unknown to him, she gave birth to a babygirl named Ploy who is now 14 years old. With the help of Sister Mioko (Tokako Tokiwa from Moonlight Express), who runs the orphanage Ploy once stayed at, Mong Fu locates his daughters whereabouts. At first the relationship is tense but in time they both become closer to each other. It is during this high in the relationship that we learn the reason why Mong Fu was in jail and that you can't run away from the past, just find closure to it.

Daniel Lee's (director of Black Mask) film aims really high but doesn't have the resources to compete with the best movies in the drama genre. The message of the film is well meant but Daniel's direction and the script can't quite bring to the screen what it wants. Much of the content has been done better before and the cliché factor is high. A Fighter's Blues doesn't fall below average but it doesn't go above either. It's merely ok. The intentions were there but it halted at an average movie.

The script has weaknesses and left me with a few questions regarding logic and character motivations. For example, I was never truly convinced of Mong Fu's huge love for Pim. Their scenes together doesn't really show the emotion and bond that apparently was between them. It's done rather shallow and doesn't gel with other sequences connected with this past memory. Andy Lau's characters journey isn't clearly realized or made clear either. I understood it's meaning but it was barely touched upon and we as an audience has to sort of figure it out ourselves. That was something the filmmakers should've made more clear themselves.

Andy Lau is the movies main strength though. It's not a terribly emotional or original character but Andy shows charisma and brings out the inner sadness in Mong Fu's often empty face. Probably one of his better performance out of the ones I've seen.

Tokako Tokiwa is probably one of the most beautiful faces to grace to big screen recently but it's too bad she's not much of an actress. For some reason she is always constantly smiling, which isn't suiting for certain scenes in the movie that needed to be more understated. She would've fitted the character better if she and the director had choosen a more subtle approach for her. Her acting during the later parts of the film gets better though so overall she's ok.

The Thai actress Apichaya Thanalthanapong who plays Andy Lau's daughter is ok in her role. Her looks and acting makes a few scenes with her father rather touching but other scenes involving her are seriously corny and clichéridden. The other assorted Thai cast does speak their mother language as well as English, so that brings a nice realism to the movie as a whole.

The best aspect of A Fighter's Blues is it's Thailand locations combined with the wonderful cinematography by Keung Kwok-Man. It brings a very different feel compared to other Hong Kong movies today and the look deserved to be backed up by a slightly better movie.

If our main character is a kickboxer then you can be sure that we're going to see scenes involving the sport. The climax of the movie is done in true Rocky-style with emotions flying in the air. Again, the message and meaning of the movie doesn't quite reach out to us in these scenes. It may be a little more apparent on subsequent viewings but I feel the filmmakers should've gotten it right on the first viewing. The choreography in the boxing scenes is not too bad but would've been better if we had less shaky cam and less editing. It's evident that Andy Lau trained for this role so why not more clearly show the result of that?

I wouldn't say I disliked A Fighter's Blues but I wish it had been a few notches better. As it is now, it's only watchable for fans of Andy Lau and for the beautiful cinematography.

The DVD:

The Mei Ah dvd gives us the movie's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. We got some specks and lines on the print and I thought it was too bright and soft in places. It has good detail and sharpness in night scenes and the boxing scenes though.

The four sound options are: Cantonese in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.1 and the same for the mandarin dub. Overall it's a good track that comes alive the most during the boxing matches but stays mostly centered throughout the movie. Note that the mandarin dub doesn't include any of the English or Thai dialogue.

The English subtitles are what we expect from Mei Ah these days. It's has both grammatical and spelling errors but seems to stay true to the dialogue. Mei Ah should've included a subtitle stream for only the English and Thai dialogue though. That would make the viewing for the Cantonese audience more giving. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included,

Normally Mei Ah includes the theatrical trailer at least but not this time. We only get the synopsis from the back cover and a list of the cast & crew.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson