With plenty of genre efforts already made, it would seem very few original ideas are left in the ground to unearth for zombie films yet the concept of mixing together ‘The Raid: Redemption’ with ‘Fight Club’ is certainly an intriguing mixture. Nowhere near as unique or creative as it could’ve been but still highly enjoyable nonetheless, this mashup from emerging Taiwanese genre director Joe Chien has a lot to like due to that.
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Arriving at an ordinary apartment building, police officer Andy (Andy On, from “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai”) and his team, Captain Ma (Michael Wong, from “City Hunter”) and Li Wei (Hans Zhang, from “Wolf Warrior 2”) find the rumors are true in that they’ve been unleashed into a zombie outbreak. Trying to fight their way through the horde of zombies inside, several other survivors Jenny (Jessica Cambensy, from “Double Trouble”) and David (Derek Tsang, from “Dream Home”) also manage to stay alive inside the building and together fight their way to safety, only to see several years later that the zombie outbreak has forced mankind underground into a series of bare-knuckle fights against them with the creatures on the side, for the amusement of Wu Ming, (Jack Kao, from “Shinjuku Incident”) a ruthless leader. Trying to remain alive, they try to keep the zombies at bay while engaging in a coup against his tyrannical control.
For the most part, ‘Zombie Fight Club’ wasn’t all too bad. One of the strongest aspects to be had here is the absolutely breakneck pace, which really gets this going immediately. The opening of the film drops us into the zombie outbreak quite rapidly with the party guests succumbing unknowingly to the creatures while they attempt to have sex with the girls or invite them into their room, unaware they’re not acting like zombies but really are, providing this one with some solid splatter. Likewise, the unauthorized raid on the drug hideout not only features some dazzling gunplay and brutal hand-to-hand combat from Action Director Phillip Ng, but also has the stellar encounters in the hallways, as they try to escape, featuring plenty of carnage and over-the-top action. That this all comes about before the half-hour mark is all the more impressive and makes for a lot to like.
This early action helps to make for a really thrilling scenario from writer Chien here. The relentless attacks shown on the other residents of the building, ranging from from the officers getting overrun by the zombies from the party, to the drug raid fueling various monster attacks on the guests still alive, and the detour into the family’s apartment where they soon discover a shocking secret about them, all gives this a non-stop, action-packed story. That this allows for a chance at storytelling within here, not only by detailing the zombie outbreak through the drug but also that they’re capable of learning by sniffing out victims or shifting focus during attacks. This still drops back into all-out action in the finale, due to the wholly enjoyable escape and the setup underground that emerges here.
As well, the film scores massively for its technical presentation. The overall look of the film is far grander and epic than it really should be, as there are always several zombies on-screen to make this one look more massive in scale, especially during the close-quarter fights in the apartments. The stunt-work is top-notch, which allows for some impressive action here including the chainsaw-wielding old guy or the scene of them driving a car down the hallway, littered with zombies. Also impressive on this budget is the set design, not only giving us an incredible look to the apartment but the gladiator coliseum where they fight each other amid a sea of zombies. The other plus is all the fine practical make-up, not only on the zombies who are suitably wet and messy but also the stellar gore featured for the graphic dismemberments and zombie kills. These here are the film’s pluses.
That said, there are some problems here. The biggest issue is the absolutely confusing setup of the film to appear as two separate films at once. For the first hour, we have this stellar film about various characters in a zombie-filled apartment complex trying to stay alive and escape which was thrilling, intense and enjoyable. However, nearly an hour in, this switches gears and turns into a futuristic society adorned with leather-clad, post-apocalyptic attire and gladiatorial pits filled zombies. This change is lazy, explained away in a brief scrolling text and really could’ve been it’s own movie. Likewise, the other big issue is the use of appallingly obvious CGI, not only being used for explosion sequences but backgrounds, gore enhancement and various other tactics that try to make it look more expensive than it is but fails miserably. These here are what hold this one down.
While there are plenty of positives throughout here, ‘Zombie Fight Club’ does have a few minor issues that hold it down which are somewhat detrimental but not enough to overcome the enjoyable aspects. Give this one a chance if you’re a hardcore zombie aficionado or interested in this one due to the concept, while those burnt out by the genre overall or feel the negatives are too glaring should heed caution here.