Written and directed by Dennis Law, Fatal Move was originally conceived as the prequel/sequel to 2005's SPL, which had Donnie Yen and Simon Yam pit their skills on the side of the law against triad members played by Sammo Hung and Wu Jing. SPL had an interesting concept to begin with, but I guess with the ending as it was (a cop out in my opinion), a successful sequel with an interlocking storyline with the surviving characters would prove challenging. A prequel on the other hand might not be as engaging, as if we were to see the rise of Sammo's character to triad boss status, it would ring too much a bell with Infernal Affairs 2.
So Fatal Move offers a completely new storyline, albeit with most of the SPL main cast coming back for another go. Donnie Yen is absent (I'll see him in action later with The Empress and The Warriors), and Simon Yam crosses over the fence to star as the brother of Sammo's triad boss character Lin Ho Lung. However, Yam's Lin Ho Tung seems to be having a walk in the park (and in fact he really did!), as is Lin Ho Lung, because those itching to see some serious butt-kicking action by Sammo Hung, will have to wait until the last 10 minutes of the movie. There are plenty of Milkyway regulars here, with Lam Suet, Cheung Siu-Fai and Maggie Siu on hand to lend their heavyweight support to appeal to Westerners here who are familiar with their works, and Danny Lee returns after a long hiatus to play, what else, a cop yet again.
The storyline is nothing to wow over, and most times seemed to be running on a railway track, completely fixed and one-way, chugging along almost endlessly, without a destination in sight. Character motivations were unclear, and Tien Niu as Lung's wife Soso really let it all rip in a melodramatic monologue that contains a lot more story in her words than all the dialogue put together in the movie. It's about the self-destruction of a triad gang from internal strife from the greed of man, but its central theme was touched upon in a rather haphazard, messy manner that you'd wonder if the sub-plots were just bookends for the action sequences.
However, despite its title, Fatal Move is severely lacking in compelling action scenes. You have the tired car chases, and it seems that there was little effort in trying to milk what Wu Jing and Sammo Hung could do. They're martial arts exponents, but get to handle guns most of the time, and this does not exploit the skills they are trained with, which you can probably employ anyone to take over their place. Most of the fighting sequences were courtesy of Wu Jing, who's especially mean with his lopsided blue-dyed hairdo and an extremely sharp sword, but given no competent exponent character-wise to spar with him, it all boiled down to a one-sided affair. Seriously I'm a fan of his and I think it's about high time he takes over the starring role mantle for Chinese action movie stars, instead of getting bogged down playing side show villains.
What gets compensated for the uninspiring action sequences, was blood and gore done in CGI. I'm placing my bets that Herman Yau, as director of photography here, would have added some of his own pointers in this aspect, and the camera does linger on in some of the more violent and gory aspects, such as pumping continuous lead into a body, and various forms of decapitations involving limbs and fingers, right down to a castration. The much touted fight between Sammo Hung and Wu Jing was the main draw for me I have to admit, but if you were to put SPL and this side by side, Wu Jing vs Donnie Yen had a lot more intensity and slick moves compared to Wu Jing vs Sammo Hung.
But alas despite the M18 rating here, the movie was still subjected to multiple edits (originally rated R21 uncut, but no thanks of course to money-making distributors), and most of the gory bits couldn't escape the censor's scissors. What made it unforgivable, was that the much awaited duel too became victim, and for that, with the insipid storyline and relatively generic action, I would have to recommend that this be skipped at the cinemas, and rent the DVD if you're really interested.