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With so many Chinese films still being called ‘Kung Fu’ something or other, and with the continuing global success of Michael Bay’s blockbuster “Transformer” franchise, “Kung Fu Cyborg: Metallic Attraction” was pretty much inevitable. The Hong Kong director getting in on the act is none other than Jeffrey Lau, who previously had hits with the likes of “A Chinese Tall Story” and the classic Stephen Chow “A Chinese Odyssey” vehicles. Perhaps unsurprisingly given Lau’s predilection for the mass mixing of genres, although the film’s advertising suggested non-stop brawling robots, he delivers something quite different, backed by a top cast of Hong Kong and Mainland stars and some boisterously over the top special effects.
The film follows Alex Fong (recently in the excellent “I Corrupt all Cops”) as K-1, a state built cyborg who for no discernable reason is sent by his creator (the inimitable Eric Tsang in a small role) to the countryside to partner a small town cop called Dachun (Hu Jun, “Red Cliff”). Strangely enough, instead of bringing down crime in the area, the robot immediately makes a beeline for Su Mei (Betty Sun. also in “Painted Skin”), who just happens to be the unrequited love of poor Dachun’s life. Despite K-1 having a bizarre Elvis style hairdo and plastic looking skin, reminiscent of Jude Law in Spielberg’s “A.I.” (though a gag reveals that he was designed to resemble Andy Lau), Su Mei responds to his affections, not knowing that falling in love will cause him to self-destruct. Meanwhile K-88 (current martial arts hotshot Wu Jing) a rogue combat cyborg, shows up, intent on causing trouble and introducing K-1 to the concept of robot rights.
It becomes very clear very quickly that “Kung Fu Cyborg: Metallic Attraction” is not taking the expected route, and that its odd, convoluted title is a pretty accurate reflection of its wacky content. Despite its potentially action packed premise of a robot joining the police, after some bizarre initial exposition, it throws the viewer straight into a vaguely inappropriate love triangle between K-1, Su Mei and Dachun, without so much as a hint of character back story or motivation. Just as the viewer is settling into this rather odd plot direction, after around an hour or so, out of nowhere the film suddenly explodes into transformation sequences and robot fighting. The CGI effects are actually quite good, and although the bombastic set pieces are still played partly for gags, the choreography by action director Yuen Tak (who worked on such classics as “Fong Sai Yuk” and “Swordsman II”) is solid, and they work well enough to inject some thrills and excitement and proceedings.
Unsurprisingly, Lau directs with his usual scattershot style, and the film is characterised by its oddball tonal shifts, leaping from eccentric romance to action and comedy, and, even more unbelievably, to straight drama which sees him trying to comment on the nature of love and what it means to be alive. This is perhaps only to be expected from Lau’s everything but the kitchen sink brand of film making, and although the film is pretty incomprehensible at times, it is arguably all the more fun and enjoyable for it.
The final act in particular comes with some very leftfield plot developments and an effects heavy cyber rumble that is admirably far out, even by his standards, before capping things off with some entirely undeserved tugs at the heart strings and an amusingly rushed mock-philosophical message. This does make for some very wacky viewing, and whether intentional or not, the comedy is generally funny, if a touch mean spirited at times as Dachun tries his best to undermine K-1. There are a good few surreal jokes, with the robot’s head turning into a tin opener, a can of sardines, and finally a giant ass – all very low brow, but humorous enough.
As such, for all its being mooted as a Chinese version of “Transformers”, “Kung Fu Cyborg: Metallic Attraction” is basically a Jeffrey Lau film with a bigger budget than usual and an even wilder, looser sense of creativity. This is arguably in its favour, as it delivers something unpredictable and pleasingly different to the norm, and the film is entertaining and lively, particularly for those viewers who don’t require too much in the way of logic or sense.
Jeffrey Lau (director) / Jeffrey Lau (screenplay)
CAST: Jun Hu … Tsui Dai-chun
Betty Sun … So-mui
Lik-Sun Fong … K-1
Wei Gan … So-ching
Ronald Cheng … Kong
Jacky Wu … K-88
Eric Tsang … Lam Cheung
Kar-Ying Law … Ying-ming