With Roy Chow’s Dynasty Warriors <真·三國無雙> still pending for release date, he had another new movie recently out on the online video platform iQiyi called Knockout <我们永不言弃>, a boxing drama that supposed to be screened in the cinemas but the plan was scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The movie centres on Zhou Shi (Han Geng), a former IBF middleweight boxing champion who is looking to start a new life following his six-year imprisonment. He decided to quit boxing and ends up working as a despatch rider so he can spend more time taking care of his little daughter, Blithe (Cai Shuling). When Zhou Shi learns about Blithe’s leukemia condition, he fulfils his daughter’s wish to return to the boxing.
Excluding his 2019’s The Great Detective <大偵探霍桑> which I have yet to watch, Roy Chow’s poor track record as a director since his 2009 debut in Murderer <殺人犯> can be evidently seen in his next two movies including Nightfall <大追捕> (2012) and Rise Of The Legend <黃飛鴻之英雄有夢> (2014) — all of which were potentially ambitious films ruined by his frequently inept direction. In his latest movie on Knockout <我们永不言弃>, he left no clichés unturned. It is unabashedly predictable from start till finish, complete with the obligatory training montage and familiar themes of determination and never-give-up attitude.
While the boxing movie has already become a well-worn genre itself, that doesn’t automatically means you can’t make a good film out of it. Unfortunately, in the case of Roy Chow, his direction is as pedestrian as it goes. Clocking at two hours long, Chow — who also responsible for the screenplay — spends too much time on Zhou Shi’s ongoing father-daughter relationship with Blithe as well as his custody issue with Blithe’s wealthy grandma (Vivian Wu) and her eventual sickness. It seems to me that Chow is more interested to make a drama about a former boxer’s struggle of fulfiling his duty as a father, with the boxing itself being a secondary subject matter.
But instead of something poignant and heartfelt, the drama feels too melodramatic for its own good. It’s almost like watching a pilot episode of a formulaic TV drama. It doesn’t help either when Zhou Shi’s so-called struggle from quitting his lucrative boxing career in favour of a more subdued life to his role as a father taking care of his sick daughter is all glossed over without digging deep into the subject matter. More like surface-level storytelling that it’s hard to earn a genuine sympathy.
Perhaps it has largely to do with Han Geng himself. While I applaud his physically-demanding appearance who looks convincing enough as a boxer (he reportedly undertook almost six months of intense training), his acting tells a different story. His performance comes across as rigid and wooden that even Cai Shuling does a better job here. Not because she looks cute (which she really does, anyway) but actually upstaged Han Geng in many occasions.
As for the boxing scenes, Chow and veteran action choreographer Dion Lam opt for a more clean-cut approach. The kind that you can actually see the whole boxing fight minus the annoying shaky-cam technique. It does have its few shares of exciting moments but overall, Knockout <我们永不言弃> is a missed opportunity that could have done better.