Unbeatable (Ji zhan) (2013)

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Released 16-Apr-2014

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye Trailers x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 111:28 (Case: 122)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Dante Lam

Madman Entertainment
Starring Nick Cheung
Eddie Peng
Mei Ting
Crystal Lee
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Henry Lai

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, stills with the end credits

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Plot Synopsis

     Fai (Nick Cheung) is an ex-boxing champion, gaoled for fight fixing who now drives a taxi in Hong Kong and owes a substantial amount to the mob. Qi (Eddie Peng) is the son of a wealthy businessman who lost all his money betting and has disappeared. Gwen (Mei Ting) had a mental breakdown after her husband left her for another woman. She took to alcohol and was drunk when her toddler son drowned in the bath, and now lives with depression and with her preteen daughter Dani (Crystal Lee) in Macau. The lives of these disparate people intersect when Fai, fleeing from the mob to Macau, gets a job in a gym with his old friend Tai who also secures Fai a room with Gwen and Dani. Qi has followed his disgraced father to Macau and comes to the gym seeking someone to train him for the lucrative MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) championship bouts in the Macau casino. For both Qi and Fai, the bouts are an opportunity to repair their fortunes and gain a little respectability.

     Unbeatable (Ji Zhan) from director Dante Lam is a character study set in the world of MMA. Not that action is lacking: the one on one MMA fights are brutal, violent and breathtakingly real and one can almost feel every hit and thump as the fighters punch, kick and grapple, all well photographed by cinematographer Kenny Tse; he is no stranger to action films having recently been the DP on, among others, Motorway (2012), Cold War (2013) and Badges of Fury (2013). But Lam really uses the MMA setting in Unbeatable to tell a story about adversity, courage, friendship and never giving up in life or in the ring.

     The centre of Unbeatable is the excellent Nick Cheung who makes his Fai a flawed man with a heart, and his developing relationship with Crystal Lee is touching and beautifully played; plenty of Hong Kong and Chinese films feature annoying young children but I am happy to say that this is not one of them and that Dani, while wise beyond her years by what has happened to her, is still a child at heart. The relationship between Fai and Qi is also nicely done and Unbeatable features a surprisingly amount of very funny moments. Some things do not work as well; the subplot about Qi’s father feels forced and unnecessary and the film does have its share of overly sentimental moments, but on the whole Unbeatable manages to blend its characters, action, message and humour very well.

     People looking for an all out action film may find Unbeatable overlong and too sentimental. But to me this is a film firmly in the genre of classic Hong Kong action films that show the master taking on the student, the student fulfilling a demanding training regime and challenging the champion in a brutal fight. While the film does diverge a little from the blueprint and not go quite where we think it might, Unbeatable is filled with likeable, interesting characters, the message is not overdone and the MMA fights are brutal and breathtaking.

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Transfer Quality


     Unbeatable is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     Filmed using the Red Epic digital camera the print is sharp with excellent detail except as noted below. The colours have that glossy digital look; the reds and yellows are bright and the nightscapes of Macau, for example, look stunning. Blacks and shadow detail are exceptional. Interior scenes under lights do look quite yellowy, which affects the skin tones as well.

     Marks were not present, however the print did show ghosting with movement, aliasing on a singlet (52:00) and the contrast did vary when the light source was beyond the actor, becoming quite glary with a lack of detail. There was also pronounced shimmering in the closing titles.

     The layer change was not noticeable.

    English subtitles are in an easy to read yellow font and seemed to be timely and error free.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is Mandarin / Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps.

     Dialogue was clear and centred. The surrounds and rears were not overdone but did feature music, weather effects, the thumps of body contact and hits on punching bags, crowd noise and occasional directional effects. The subwoofer added some bass to music and the fight action.

    Lip synchronisation was good.

     The original score by Henry Lai (Three Kingdoms (2008), 14 Blades (2010), The Lost Bladesman (2011)) was effective if not memorable. It was augmented by a number of pop tunes including The Sound of Silence performed by Ania Dabrowska.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Making of

     This making of is really 6 short EPK sections consisting of on set and film footage and sound-bites from the (not identified) main cast and the director. There is a play all option. The six sections are: The Rise of MMA, Training for the Film, The Making of a Hero, The Characters, The Actors and The Director (each is 2:13 in length except for The Characters which is 3:13). Of limited value.

Theatrical Trailer (1:26)

Eastern Eye Trailers

     Trailers for The Protector 2 (2:19), The Wrath of Vajra (2:03), Motorway (1:33) and Life Without Principle (2:24).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There is not currently a release of Unbeatable in either Region 1 US or Region 2 UK. The Region 3 Hong Kong release is listed on YesAsia.com as being in an aspect ratio of 1:78.1, is NTSC and contains limited extras. The running time is listed as 116 min.

     The IMDb lists two running times for the film: one version 122 minutes and a version from Taiwan of 110 minutes but provides no other information. The cover of this Region 4 DVD lists the running time of the film as 122 min, but in fact the film runs 111:28 which looks like the Hong Kong running time with 4% PAL speedup. Unfortunately I am unable to find out any further information on cuts.


     Those looking for a purely action film may find Unbeatable overlong and sentimental, but this is not a film where the characters and plot are just there to fill in between action sequences. While the fights are brutal, violent and breathtakingly real, Unbeatable is more: a film about adversity, courage, friendship and never giving up in life or in the ring. Unbeatable is a better than average martial arts film that is well worth a look.

     The video is acceptable, the audio fine. Extras are EPK, but at least there are some.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, June 06, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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