Kung Fu Killer
Director: Teddy Chen
Starring: Donnie Yen, Charlie Yeung, Baoqiang Wang, and Bing Bai
From Amplify Releasing
“Iron Monkey”, “Enter the Dragon”, “Born Invincible”, “Five Element Ninjas”, “Fist of Legend” and “Once Upon a Time in China II”, these are six of my favorite martial arts movies. What do two of these films have in common? They star Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen. Director Teddy Chen clearly wants to pay homage to martial arts films of the past, for instance Shaw Brothers films, and he succeeds in making an action packed film that honors the past that influences it.
Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen) is a martial arts instructor/master who helps train the police force in Hong Kong. Hahou is imprisoned after a duel where he accidentally killed someone. A few years pass and a killer named Fung Yu-Sau (Baoqiang Wang) begins to target martial arts masters, challenging them in their respective style in a battle to the death. Using techniques like grappling, boxing, and weapon work to name a few, Fung attracts the attention of Hahou who finds the particulars of the killings familiar. Hahou contacts a police detective (Charlie Yeung) and agrees to help find Fung in exchange for his freedom.
Chen understands the nature of martial arts films, which is ultimately the origin leading to the duel. Here, Fung is motivated by the death of his wife and his determination to be the best by beating the best. The narrative doesn’t hide the mystery of the killer, we know Fung and understand early his purpose for fighting. Where the mystery exists is with the intentions of Hahou. Why did he kill someone? What side is he on? These questions are easily answered but they help in building the anticipation of what is unquestionably coming, an epic freeway confrontation between Hahou and Fung.
The film is ultimately a vehicle for Donnie Yen, who has an undeniable presence and still has the physical chops to command the action sequences in the film, one in which he also serves as fight choreographer. Surprisingly Yen is nearly upstaged by Baoqiang Wang who had nice turns in “A Touch of Sin” and “Lost in Thailand” and here plays the unhinged Fung with ferocity.
The production level is high with numerous locations showcasing the many modern and traditional aspects associated with Hong Kong. The action scenes are impressive, with chase scenes that weave in and out of locations with a mix of handheld and stationary camera work. This camera work offers a nice balance during fight scenes to display both the quickness and power of the martial arts technique. The fight scenes are meticulously paced, one fight happening acrobatically on the top of a large sculpture. The film operates the best of realistic and gravity defying combat to make the fight scenes energetic and distinct.
The film ends with a nice homage to the many actors and crew members that have given their skilled talents to the art of martial arts filmmaking. While the film may not reach the realms of some of the classic kung fu films, the ambition and passion from the team offer a first-rate effort.
3.50 out of 5.00