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Unbeatable (2013)
Dante Lam, Hong Kong

As the saying goes, everyone loves an underdog story. This is certainly true when it comes to movies, and it's even more true for movies about fighters. While Rocky probably wasn't the first of its kind, its premise and impact on popular culture is something that underscores so much of what came after it. It's hard to watch a boxing (or more recently, MMA) movie without relating it as a 'Rocky story' in some way. Going beyond the boxing genre, I'd argue that comic books explore the underdog story in a much more complex way, and we see that transpire on screen with superhero movies. Maybe that's why they're so successful; I'm repeating myself here, but everyone loves an underdog story. Now, moving onto Unbeatable. When I first saw this movie, I was reminded of how few relatable underdog stories there were in the oeuvre of Hong Kong cinema. A lot of triad movies have an underdog feel to them, but let's be honest, we're still talking about criminals here. Try naming a few Hong Kong movies that feature inspiring, realistic stories about someone overcoming adversity and making it out on top against all odds. It's a bit of a difficult task, and it's shocking that there aren't more movies like this in Hong Kong. Rocky was made in 1976, and I think 2013 was when Hong Kong finally got its first Rocky equivalent. Sure, you could list A Fighter's Blues or Born Wild as examples, but watch them again and you'll prove yourself wrong. This film has that inspirational jolt that you only get with a well-formed underdog story, and Nick Cheung absolutely kills it as a has been MMA fighter trying to prove himself wrong. The lighter comedic moments (especially scenes with Crystal Lee) are also spot on, helping the film maintain some breathing room in the midst of all the intense physical and mental drama. And I know it's a bit unfair given that this was a cover, but after hearing The Sound of Silence in both The Graduate and Old School, I never thought I'd be able to associate the song with any another movie. But with a beautifully shot montage, I was proven dead wrong.

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