Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 5 December 2019

First Emirati martial arts thriller to hit UAE cinemas

Unbeatable Fighter aims to highlight the dangers of computer game addiction

Emirati MMA fighter Adel Al Hallawi produced and directed the film. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Emirati MMA fighter Adel Al Hallawi produced and directed the film. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The first Emirati martial arts action thriller will be released in cinemas later this year.

Unbeatable Fighter tells the story of a troubled champion shunned by his friends after killing a fellow competitor in a bout. Heartbroken by the tragedy, the character, who suffers from a multiple-personality disorder, vanishes from the limelight. But when an evil villain threatens to take over his city, he springs back into action, defeating a mobster hellbent on criminal gain.

“When I started to approach fighters to take part in the film they laughed,” said Adel Al Hallawi, who plays the film’s protagonist. “They were like, ‘an Emirati martial arts film? Will you fight us in a kandura?’”

Unbeatable Fighter features eight martial arts champions from the UAE and around the world. The twisting plot, which involves an underground, illegal martial arts tournament, is a classic good-versus-evil saga packed with drama. But the story also aims to highlight to teenage viewers the dangers of spending too much time on computers and game consoles.

Emirati MMA fighter Adel Al Hallawi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Emirati MMA fighter Adel Al Hallawi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A central thread in the film suggests youngsters who snub playing sport in favour of online gaming fail to succeed in life. The film’s villains are played by Japanese martial artist Ryo Sakai, Mohammed Al Shebli, head of the UAE national boxing team, Mestre Caxias, a capoeira champion from Brazil, Khanatip “Ya” Champa, a muay Thai fighter from Thailand, Omar Al Mesmari, an Emirati jiu-jitsu fighter and Sami Al Nuaman, a wrestler from Syria.

Al Hallawi, who wrote and directed the movie, and who is also a Mixed Martial Arts fighter.

“I’ve been practising MMA since I was a child,” he said. “I always wanted to create an Emirati film that reaches international viewers – not only through film festivals, but the regular viewer who goes to the cinema.”

Al Hallawi, 43, said he trained for three months for the film with the help of his co-stars, most of whom are also professional trainers. His biggest challenge was to finish shooting all the action sequences and fights without anyone getting hurt.

“Adel fights all the champions by himself and I was afraid the actor playing him would accidentally get hurt, so I decided to do it myself,” he said.

Despite his best efforts, however, Al Hallawi was injured during filming. He also accidentally knocked out a co-star.

“I suffered cracked ribs after one fighting scene,” he said. “[The actor] said he wanted to feel like he was fighting for real. I told him, OK, go ahead – and that was the result.

“I also hurt one of the fighters. I told him to duck right before I threw an elbow punch. He ducked left instead and it hit him – he was knocked out.”

The climax of the film involves fight scenes from the illegal martial arts championship. Broadcast over the dark web to stay clear of authorities aiming to break up the fights, it confronts some of the dangers faced by young people using the internet.

It also highlights the work being done in the UAE to combat cyber crime and those committed to profiting through fraud.

Our security forces have become very advanced electronically and we wanted to highlight how secure the e-environment is in Abu Dhabi,” he said.

The film is expected to be released on October 3.

Updated: August 8, 2019 07:43 PM