In Hong Kong productions like Undefeatable, it is important to suspend disbelief enough to accept that everywhere the characters go they will encounter people who know kung fu. It is an especially difficult premise to carry in suburban Maryland. Godfrey Ho directed over a hundred karate movies, many notorious for being bad. He is the Ed Wood of Hong Kong Cinema. I honestly don’t think the fight choreography is as bad as it is made out to be. Certainly not the worst I have ever seen. The fight sequences do however contain loads of unnecessary slow motion segments, arbitrary close ups, bad cutaways, and some ridiculous clothes ripping. While filming these scenes, Ho trots out every cliché in martial arts filmmaking. And when they are used up, he brings them out again. And again. And Again.
Five time World Karate Champion Cynthia Rothrock gained notoriety as a film star in Hong Kong. In Undefeatable, she portrays a waitress who takes part in street fights to earn money for her sister’s college tuition. Her sister is kidnapped by Stingray (Don Niam). I’m sure I don’t have to tell you he is also a karate master. Stingray, who seem to be teetering on the brink of sanity at the beginning of the film, loses his mind after his wife leaves him and begins kidnapping women who resemble her. You can tell the minute he loses it because he sprays streaks in his hair with some sort of red hair dye he got at the mall in a scene that some writer meant to be as intense a the transformation scene in Taxi Driver. As a crazed martial arts kidnapper, Stingray abducts women in some particularly public places causing some especially noticeable brawls with karate expert boyfriends. It is hard to imagine nobody would notice Stingray engaged in a full on kickboxing match in front of a shopping center in the middle of the day. In spite of his loud abductions, the police aren’t able to close in on him until they bring in a karate master who analyzes the wounds on the dead bodies and determines that the killer is using a martial arts style that only three people in the area are using. But these are the least of the convoluted ideas holding this plot together.
Undefeatable is endlessly entertaining. The dialogue is wooden, but consistently wooden so as every line comes across as a gem. The street gangs are awesome in that way where they say tough things that don’t sound tough and wear clothes that members of a street gang would never wear. The cops have the luxury of making clever observations in the middle of action sequences. The script reads as if the writers are constantly trying to dig themselves out of a previous scene. This is a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It keeps you on the edge of your seat for the wrong reasons, but in the end, you won’t be able to look away.
Billups Allen’s interest in writing began composing lyrics for punk rock bands. Lyrical duties led to an interest in writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine and writes criticism for Razorcake Magazine, the Tucson Citizen, and the Tucson Weekly.