Film & DVD Review
Two brothers, Yat and Leung, with different mothers can have different destinies... After Leung and his mother are expelled from the family, they are housed by a fortune teller. Leung is a lucky guy and brings good fortune to his mother. On the other side, Yat's presence poses a tragic threat to his family. Eventually, Yat's parents die and Leung's mother decides to raise Yat and the two boys exchange their names. However, their lives will turn upside down when they reach the age of thirty. The only way Yat can retain his luck is to take all the good luck from Leung...
At the time of writing, Nick Cheung features in nine of the films listed on this site, and of those nine, five are gambling films, and one is almost a gambling film. Certainly would appear that he has become a little type-cast in his roles, or maybe it is just a reflection on the type of films I buy? Either way, Fate Fighter is another Nick Cheung film in the gambling genre.
Nick plays Four-Taels, a man looking for any sort of job to make a living, but also someone with an incredible knack for gambling. Regardless the game, he is an expert at it, but in his life he discovered this is at a cost. Every time he gambles bad luck strikes him. His half brother, on the other hand, has incredible good fortune and has made millions through gambling and investing. Both with the same dad, but different mothers, when they were born a Fortune Teller foretold that one of them was born with incredible good fortune, but the other was a jinx. The good fortune for Four-Taels' half brother would last for thirty years, after which bad luck would dominate. Only Four-Taels holds the key to continuing his half-brother's good fortune.
I'll be honest, at times the plot can be a little confusing, as following which baby is which, and who grows up to be who is a little more difficult than you might imagine, especially since the children swap names at one point. That being said, there isn't really that much importance in the plot, as it is another purely formulaic story used to set up various humour moments and gambling set pieces. Unfortunately with the gambling there isn't really anything new to this entry in the gambling genre that you haven't seen before, probably performed by some of the same cast members.
So what is there that is positive to say about the film? Well, the gambling sequences, while not being that original, are still entertaining to watch. The way the two gamblers fight for cards in some of the games can bring a mild smirk to my face, as it is the sort of ridiculous entertainment that is nice to chill out too and not take seriously. It also always makes me laugh how they can throw two packs of cards in the air, and then the 104 cards rain down on them gradually for the next thirty seconds or so! I tried it once, and it doesn't work! Anyway, the gambling scenes are fun to watch, and make good brain fodder. Fortunately there is more than just that going for the film. There are quite a few decently funny scenes throughout the film. These keep the story a lot more interesting than it otherwise would have been.
But on the downside, there are nowhere near enough decently funny scenes to stop the film dragging. This is made worse by there being quite a few scenes that were clearly intended to be funny, but simply were not. A lot of these were in scenes with the presence of Sam Lee. There is no actor that has gone down so much in my estimations from when I first saw them on film. In Made In Hong Kong he was brilliant, but since then few films that I've seen him in have been that great, and he never seems to be given serious roles. I think he has been badly typecast for certain roles, but I don't think most of them really work for him or show off his abilities to their full.
Anyway, another criticism would be that the story does drag a little, as very little sympathy, empathy or any other feeling is built up for any character. The story just appears to move on with the intent being to set up a set piece of some sort. With this apparent intent, it is no surprise that the script (as far as I can tell from the subtitles) doesn't contain anything overly spectacular or that imaginative. Most of what happens is generally quite predictable, and that is in a film where you don't really have to use your brain that much. But with the script the actors and actresses put in par performances. Everyone just seems to be running through the motions, but it gets the job done. Fortunately Kristy Yang is as cutely gorgeous as ever, so even if she were giving the worst acting performance in history, it would be easy to overlook when she is on screen!
Basically Fate Fighter is just another run of the mill gambling film. Personally I preferred all the God Of Gamblers and the Conman series to this effort. It has its ups and downs, and comes out at the end as being nothing more than average, although possibly slightly below. One final word, the ending will leave you with a very confused "wtf?!?!?" due to the surreality of it...
Audio & Subtitles
The Cantonese audio comes in a choice of Dolby Digital or DTS, so I decided on the DTS option. Well there definitely were effects spread around the soundstage, but not as much as there could have been, in my opinion. In the several flying cards scenes, there was the opportunity to have lots cards fluttering in the air all around you, but as far as I could hear the majority of the soundtrack came from the front speakers, primarily the front centre speaker. The same goes for the rest of the film. However, all the audio and speech was perfectly clear and audible, with good balance between the speech and the sound effects.
The subtitles were more of a throw back to the DVDs produced several years ago. The grammar, while still being understandable, was not right sounding. The sentences generally made perfect sense, but the things that they were stating would have definitely been phrased different, or in a different word order, by a fluent English speaker. There were also reasonably frequent spelling errors, one of which I think was the main character's name, Four-Taels. I have a feeling that he was actually called Four-Tales (he is according to the HKMDB.com). To further bring these subtitles down, the righting that appears on screen was not subtitled at all.
The picture quality was a bit of a surprise, in that it is actually really good for a letterboxed film. There was very little in the way of dirt, print damage or any other sort of defects on the print. Colours were well reproduced and looked bright and bold in most places. I personally didn't notice anything in the way of grain, and detail levels were quite high with the print being pretty crisp and sharp. Certainly among the better letterboxed prints I've seen in a while.
DVD & Extras
Extras are your standard fare. There are Stars' Files (or in this case just filmographies) for Nick Cheung, Kristy Yang, Alex To and Sam Lee, then there's More Attractions, which features trailers for Truth Or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat and The Conman 2002, and lastly a photo gallery, which I think is as pointless as it is on every other DVD that contains one.
Fate Fighter is Nick Cheung's umpteenth entry in the gambling genre, and probably is among his worst. There is nothing here to make it stand above others, but enough to make it be happily forgotten. The few laughs and entertaining gambling scenes are not enough to save it.
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