Directed by Soi Cheang (The Monkey King films), written by Yau Nai-hoi (Drug War) and Melvin Li, and produced by Johnnie To (director of Drug War and Fulltime Killer), Mad Fate is a crazy Hong Kong mystery thriller that sees a fortune teller trying to save a potential murderer. A murderer is on the loose that targets hookers. Meanwhile, a fortune teller known only as The Master (Gordon Lam, Ip Man) specializes in helping his clients change their fate. After one of his rituals doesn’t work, one of The Master’s clients is killed.
Siu Tung (Lok Man Yeung) is the son of a restaurant manager. He is making a delivery and mixes up the apartment number in the rain. He delivers the order to where The Master’s client is killed. Siu Tung is mesmerized by the carnage and blood. The Master does a reading on Siu Tung, believes he’s about to commit murder, and will likely do 20 years in prison. He intends to change Siu Tung’s fate before he can kill anyone.
The two main characters of Mad Fate seem to represent good and evil, but each side is battling their own personal demons. The Master is a legit fortune teller who can foresee things that are likely to come true, but mental illness runs in his family. He’s twitchy with jerky OCD-like behavior that many would read as borderline craziness, though his methods work if his clients actually listen to him.
Siu Tung has been struggling with murderous intent his entire life. He jacked up his sister’s face with blades at a young age, brutally murdered alley cats, and even did some time in prison for his behavior. A veteran cop (played by Berg Ng, The Grandmaster) has been following Siu Tung since he was nine and is looking for any reason to arrest him and get him off the streets permanently.
The film has shades of Final Destination and Bill Paxton’s Frailty, with fate stepping in at times like death does in the Final Destination films. The Master is consistently arguing with some sort of omnipotent being in the sky much like how you question the hand of God concept in Frailty. Mad Fate raises the question if it’s really God or if it’s all in The Master’s head.
As a whole, Mad Fate is an entertaining watch because it mostly feels original; something you haven’t seen before. The Master has a desire to help people that rivals Siu Tung’s thirst for blood. As much as they prepare to try and battle Siu Tung’s impending fate, it always seems like something steps in to destroy their work and keep them on this inescapable path.
It’s not until the second half of the film that the murderer (played by Peter Chan) returns, after you’ve completely forgotten about him. His inclusion is initially handled as an unpredictable element that evolves into the very thing that is tempting Siu Tung from staining his hands with human blood. Peter Chan always puts a COVID mask on before he kills, which is intriguing. Mad Fate was likely filmed during the pandemic, but the mask helps hide the murderer’s true identity.
The story eventually becomes whether or not The Master can help Siu Tung without losing his sanity. He’s taken extreme precautions over the years to not fall victim to the disease that is in his blood. Firmly believing that assisting Siu Tung is what finally pushes him over the edge. Siu Tung only wants to stay out of prison and practically lusts over the thought of killing someone.
Mad Fate is a riveting watch because the performances are great and the premise is vastly different than what you’re probably used to seeing in thrillers touching on similar concepts. The ending is a little bizarre as it takes a severe plunge into illogical territory — not to mention the use of CGI (all of the animals are computer generated) being lackluster at best.
For the most part, though, Mad Fate is incredibly original and masterfully dances around whether or not our fates are actually chiseled in stone.
- The acting is top notch.
- The story captivates you from the start.
- Every character has some sort of flaw that makes them seem more genuine.
- The CGI is a bit weak.
- The ending is not as strong as the rest of the story.