Never Say Die (羞羞的铁拳)

NeverSayDie
Learning to dive

I t’s not your body anymore, get it? Ever heard “possession is nine-tenths of the law?” Does that expression not exist in Mandarin? I’ve seen a bunch of body switch stories now and most of them seem to come with instructions, “Don’t touch my body! Don’t look at my body! Don’t feed me after midnight!” Well, pal. I’m sorry this is news, but it ain’t yours no more. Only people in movies could possibly believe they’re getting their bodies back.

Of course, only people in movies ever get their bodies taken away in the first place, so I guess it works out. Sort of.

As a pure MMA film, Never Say Die is among the most cynical ever made. Going by what this movie showed me, one would believe that no single match between two Chinese fighters ever happens without both knowing the outcome well before they step in the ring. Luckily, this is a comedy, so we can deal with the fact that we aren’t going to see an honest cage match until the finale. Lanky ex-contender Edison (Allen Ai) is introduced to us in the ring as he battles what appears to be the local equivalent of Tanner from the Bad News Bears. Edison, equally as honest as my understanding of Cantonese, is supposed to throw the fight, but is finding it impossible given his unworthy opponent. Next scene, he’s holding a press conference. I’m not sure why; the lackluster Edison has to win four more fights in a row to get to “Fighting King” King Wu Liang (Yu Tian).

However, this does give the movie a chance to introduce Edison’s counterpart (not Tesla, aww), investigative reporter Ma Xiao (Li Ma). And just so we can keep this all in one little in-bred circle, Ma is fiancée to Wu Liang and daughter of Edison’s manager, Dong (director Yang Song). Isn’t that cozy? It gets even cozier when Edison and Ma fall into a lightning struck swimming pool together and *poof* switch bodies.

Edison and Ma don’t like one another, so after the perfunctory “don’t touch my stuff” exchange, both set out to undermine their respective careers. Losing a fight where the opponent has willingly agreed to throw it ahead of time is a difficult feat, but the film needed to point out what a girlyman Ma-in-Edison’s-body is. That strikes me as more than a bit chauvinistic, but the film makes up for it later. Chinese censorship never allows film to get racy, but there are some decent gender role assumptions here, like when Edison in Ma’s body, gets out of the shower to answer the door while wearing only a towel around “his” lower half.

Never Say Die was a pretty meh comedy for the most part; it gave predictable cowardice of a non-fighter stepping into a ring and predictable indignation from the body of Edison/mind of Ma learning that “his” fiancée is a lothario. None of this was terribly unique or inspired until the scenes with the Zen master, whose training regimen for getting Ma ready for a professional fight as Edison included staring down a hawk and attaching flyers to speeding cars – the outcomes of both disciplines still has me giggling.

If you are an avid follower of Chinese film, you will note that production company Mahua Funage made Goodbye Mr. Loser two years ago, another gimmick switch comedy with a man going back to his own past. I’m glad these folks let Ma Li get in on the joke this time around; it would seem kinda awful if every film she had to play it straight because the genie picked door B. Is that enough to recommend either film? Not especially, but there are some laughs in both places.

♪Now I’m the king of the cheaters, girl. A fighting parody
I reached the top and had to flop to get my guarantee
Don’t want to change, no how, I wear the diving crown
Made a good life without much strife, acting like a clown

So woo woo ooh, don’t wanna be like you
Don’t wanna sneer like you, jeer like you do
And you see it’s true, a dope like me
Could never be woman, too♫

Not Rated, 100 Minutes
Director: Yang Song, Chiyu Zhang
Writer:  ??
Genre: The ol’ switcheroo
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Gender role reversal nuts
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Actual MMA fighters

♪ Parody Inspired by “I Wanna Be Just Like You”

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