Proudly billed as a first in the genre, young helmer Jamel Aattache's ho-hum "Fighting Fish" is unlikely to stir wild international demand for more Dutch martial arts films. Attempt to combine kung fu action with immigrant angst picks up all the cliches but little of the excitement. As a novelty, pic may generate some interest, but buzz outside home territories is unlikely.

Proudly billed as a first in the genre, young helmer Jamel Aattache’s ho-hum “Fighting Fish” is unlikely to stir wild international demand for more Dutch martial arts films. Attempt to combine kung fu action with immigrant angst picks up all the cliches but little of the excitement. As a novelty, pic may generate some interest, but buzz outside home territories is unlikely.

Local martial arts expert Kim Ho Kim stars as A-Ken, a former gang member from Rotterdam’s large Chinese population, who returns to Holland to get answers about his brother’s death. He contacts his old boss Mr. Yam (Banny Ho), whose wildcard of a son Koh (Chewing Lam) implies the rival A-Ching gang is responsible. This leads to a so-so fight sequence, after which the gangsters tell him they had nothing to do with the killing.

A-Ken interviews members of the community (but don’t expect “Chan is Missing”) without coming any closer to the truth. He does however attract the bewitching eye of beautiful Chinese waitress Lynn (Jennifer De Jong, sadly underused), although his desires tend toward freckle-faced Dutch girl Jennifer (Chantal Janzen).

No one is happy with the blossoming interracial romance, least of all Jennifer’s bouncer brother Marc (Ron Smoorenburg, whose roles in Hong Kong pics like “Who Am I?” and “Avenging Fist” give him the best pedigree among the performers). Mr. Yam tries unsuccessfully to woo A-Ken back into his mob, but Koh’s impatience with his father’s pacifist tendencies creates tensions that ultimately explain the mystery of the unsolved murder.

Sporting a bob reminiscent of Michael Jackson in his Veronica Lake phase, Kim has Asian teen idol looks, concomitant with acting talent. He knows how to kick and fly through the air, but his fight choreography relies too much on acrobatics, with not enough smack.

Lines like, “Who taught you to fight like that?” are typical examples of the threadbare screenplay. There’s more English spoken than Dutch, but the performers voices become deadened when using their non-native language. Only Lam, with an enjoyably over the top performance, contributes the energy expected from the martial arts genre.

Tech credits are a bit murky, with several fight sequences poorly lit and blandly lensed.

Fighting Fish

The Netherlands

Production

A United Intl. Pictures release of a Riverpark/Three Kings Prods. presentation of a Fighting Fish C.V. production. (International sales: Riverpark, Rotterdam.) Produced by Herman Slagter, Jamel Aattache. Executive producer, Vincent Van Zoon. Directed by Jamel Aattache. Screenplay, Kim Ho Kim, Aattache.

Crew

Camera (color), Peter Jan van der Burgh; editor, Rene Wiegmans; music, Yorick Goldewijk; production designer, Ben Zuydwijk; art director, Elsa Oskam; costume designers, Heleen Beentjes, Akke Haarsma; sound (Dolby), Stefan Leertouwer, Tuur Hendrikx, Robin Schaefer; fight choreography, Kim Ho Kim; associate producer, Wouter Smit. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Main Program), Jan. 22, 2004. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Kim Ho Kim, Chantal Janzen, Jennifer De Jong, Ron Smoorenburg, Banny Ho, Chewing Lam, Bao Xian Fei.
(Mandarin, Dutch, English dialogue)
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