Fight the Fight is a misleading and thoroughly generic martial arts film. Sammo Hung gets top billing and features prominently in the cover art but shows up on screen for 10 minutes at most. The film also claims to celebrate the Chinese martial art of Choy Lee Fut but does so little to distinguish itself that the end result is less than inspiring.
The barely-there plot involves an aimless young man named Yinggit (Sammy Hung, son of Sammo...wait a minute, I see what's going on here) going back home to China to reconnect with his culture. When he arrives with his friend (Kane Kosugi, son of Sho Kosugi) in tow, he finds that his father's Choy Lee Fut academy has fallen into disrepair. With his dad (Sammo Hung) nowhere to be found, it falls on Yinggit to start making all sorts of big-picture decisions. First up is the fate of the academy itself. You see, the ambiguously evil Pan-America Corporation would like to buy the academy from Yinggit's family and resurrect it under their branding. Yinggit's dad even signed off on the preliminary paperwork with his only stipulation being that Pan-America had to get the final OK from the folks who were still running the academy.
Faced with the choice of honoring his heritage or diving into piles of cash Scrooge McDuck style, Yinggit decides to go on the (rather polite) offensive. He comes to an agreement with Yu Fei (Wang Jiayin), the pretty, young Pan-America rep, which stipulates that 3 of the academy's top fighters will face off against 3 of Pan-America's fearsome bruisers with the winner deciding the fate of the school. Mixing a little business with pleasure, Yinggit and Yu Fei even embark on a very public romance which doesn't sit well with Zor who happens to be Pan-America's meanest trainer. Will love conquer all? Will Yinggit get the snot beaten out of him? Will he suddenly recover and claim victory? Will he preserve the legacy of the academy and earn his absentee father's approval in the process? What do you think?
I didn't bother tossing in a spoiler warning with those last few sentences because I can't possibly spoil the obvious. The story is predictable from start to finish and you can chart out every major plot point as soon as the main characters have been introduced. However, that's not what bothers me. You probably read that plot summary and had visions of awesome training scenes and brutal beatdowns dancing through your head. How could you not? A film that is building towards a trio of tournament style fights has to deliver on its promise, right? Not so fast! That love story between characters who are attracted to each other simply because they are pretty, young people in a film that requires pretty, young people to fall in love will be a sticking point.
Yinggit and Yu Fei's romance is shoe-horned into the proceedings, weighing down the mid-section of the film and ruining the development of any sort of momentum or energy. Every time a training scene threatens to deliver the goods, it is cut short so Yinggit can take time to make googly eyes at his lady love. This is a film that loves its montages so it's a telling sign that one of the longest ones is dedicated to our love birds taking a romantic drive followed by some quality reading time at the library (wait...what?) before ending up in a hot tub together. Director Tommy Lor could spend some time showing us why Choy Lee Fut is unique and awesome but would rather have our lead turning pruney in a hot tub. To say that the film's priorities are muddled would be an understatement.
By now, you're wondering if the film has any action at all. That's where the finale comes in. It gives us 3 tournament style fights in quick succession. The first is a non-event but the second featuring Kosugi has much better choreography and registers as the highlight of the film for me. Unfortunately that means the deciding match between Sammy Hung and his nemesis isn't quite the brain-exploder it should be. While Sammy does a decent job, the pacing just feels a little off and too much of the action is captured in close quarters to appreciate the scope of what the performers are engaged in. Don't get me wrong, the final 20 minutes are much, much better than everything leading up to them but they still didn't leave a lasting impression on me.
The movie was presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The image was sharp and clear throughout, displaying fine detail quite nicely. The only time I noticed some softness was during one of the romantic montages leading me to believe the effect was intentional. This is a fairly bright film and the color palette is accurately conveyed. Only one shot (Sammo's single action sequence) threatened to smear and bleed with really boosted oranges and yellows.
The audio track was presented in Cantonese and English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound mixes with optional English and Spanish subtitles. I chose to view the film with the Cantonese track and found it to be perfectly adequate. The handful of action scenes carried the most weight with every punch and kick coming through with force. During more dialogue-driven scenes, the actors' words came through with clarity. I did notice a few cases where the dialogue didn't seem to perfectly match certain actors' mouths as they were saying them which points to issues in the ADR process.
The primary extra is a set of Cast Interviews. First up, we have a short conversation with Sammo Hung in which he seems bored and just a little annoyed. It's a little shocking to hear him say that he doesn't understand this movie. Despite being surly, he answers questions about the paucity of action scenes featuring him, how he gained an understanding of his character and what it feels like to work with his son. He also goes on at some length about how foreign audiences need to gain an appreciation of martial arts history.
Yuen Wah follows Sammo and seems to be more willing to play along with the interviewer. He describes his role as the head trainer of the Choy Lee Fut academy and discusses a number of subjects including working with younger, inexperienced actors. The last interview is with Sammy Hung, the star of the film. His is the lengthiest segment which isn't surprising since he's the most enthusiastic of the bunch. He goes into a description of the movie and reminisces about working with the entire cast and enduring grueling training sessions. We close things out with a Trailer for the film and for others Also from Lionsgate.
For a film that sets up a struggle between preserving one's heritage and trading it in for commercial success, it's kind of ironic to see Fight the Fight fall victim to the very same conflict (not quite rain on your wedding day ironic but still ironic). Director Tommy Lor could have used this film to impress upon us the power and grace of Choy Lee Fut. Instead he gives us a youthful cast engaging in silly comedy and forced romance. The finale does give us some of the high-kicking action promised by the film's title but frankly it's too little, too late. This isn't the sort of film that should be sought out but it is sporadically entertaining, especially if you can make it through the first hour. Rent It.