Never Say Die (Review)

Never Say Die

aka 羞羞的铁拳 aka Xiu Xiu De Tie Quan
Never Say Die
Directed by Yang Song and Chiyu Zhang
Never Say Die
A fun body swap comedy that throws any sort of sexual politics to the wayside in favor of lots of wacky antics, Never Say Die often runs into mo lei tau territory. That is fantastic, there just hasn’t been enough weird, fun stuff coming from Chinese cinema, and if they have to crib from Stephen Chow’s playbook to do it, fine with me. Never Say Die has been rewarded for being funny with some good box office returns (some of which might even be legitimate!), and gets the TarsTarkas.NET Seal of Approval! (Note: Seal of Approval does not contain actual seals.)

The film is merciless towards ultimate fighting, depicting it as an incredibly corrupt institution controlled by a family that profits off of the use and destruction of the other fighters, while promoting their son, Fight King Wu Liang (Xue Haowen) as the undefeated champion for years. Edison (Allen Ai Lun) is even introduced as being part of this machine, his first appearance is holding own on throwing a fight while demanding more money, and his character is coming off a suspension for giving bribes to the Fight King (for a match Edison lost and had his arm broken during) Later fighters are obviously bribed, including one who complains that the fighter won’t even try to attack them so they can fake lose.

Reporter Ma Xiao (Ma Li) is a no-nonsense sports reporter who will do whatever it takes to get her story, which is usually about how awful the various ultimate fighters are. Which is ironic, given that she is engaged to the Fight King himself! As Edison is announcing his big comeback for a rematch with the Fight King (provided he wins enough qualifying matches to do so), she harasses him at the press conference and then overhears him discussing with his manager, Ma Dong (Tian Yu), about how Ma Dong bribed enough fighters to take a dive to ensure a rematch. An attempt by Edison to retrieve Ma Xiao’s take with incriminating evidence results in the two switching bodies thanks to the power of accidentally kissing while falling in a swimming pool when lightning strikes. You know, the usual stuff. The fun then begins as they both walk several miles in each others shoes and realize things aren’t as simple as they first appear (or as I have described them above!)
Never Say Die

The characters completely transform once they’ve swapped bodies, donning extreme genderfied personalities. They do relax it a bit as the film goes on and the audience has been sufficiently conditioned as to the plot. The formerly feminine Ma Xiao suddenly is brash and loud, sitting with legs spread and hunched forward, and backtalking men. Edison becomes timid and speaks with a higher-pitched voice. This isn’t a gay thing, it’s a play on Ma Xiao speaking with a perky but submissive voice when talking with other like her boyfriend. Edison in Ma Xiao continues to forget to do this, leading to confusion as no one has heard her real voice.

Now Ma Xiao in Edison’s body must fight in his place, but she needs training, and we get a delightful sequence where they meet a fighting master at the top of the mountain (actually, the second in command, because the Master went on a trip and hasn’t been back!) The Vice Master (Teng Shen) is awesome, and we get some good new spins on the traditional kung fu training scenes that poke fun with modern elements and goofy staring contests with birds. But as usual with the wacky comedies, there comes a point when the characters stop getting involved in all the hijinks that are ensuing and the plot finishes. The final rematch fight between Edison and Wu Liang (not a spoiler because OF COURSE they have a final fight) is way more serious than the ridiculous scenes before it, even with attempts to throw in humor from side characters.

There are some weird points that don’t seem to mesh together, Ma Xiao is introduced as a strong, independent reporter, but she’s harassed by her boss (in displays so fragrant he’d be tossed out and she’s be paid the big $$$ in America) and seemingly dependent on her fighter boyfriend despite having a successful career that can make and break people (including, presumably, her boyfriend if she so wished!)

Despite the small amount of flaws, Never Say Die works as a comedy and satisfies my itch as a Mainland China comedic film that translates well overseas. I’ve had way too many bad experiences that I’m not going to let this good one pass by without telling people that it is good and worth watching, even if it isn’t perfect and rehashes the body-switching plot. Here’s hoping it is the first of many that I’ll be seeing thanks to the power of now having a MoviePass subscription!
Never Say Die

Rated 8/10

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Never Say Die

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