Despite it’s intense title which flings you back to Kung Fu dramas of the 1970s Kung Fu Killer is really a love letter to the stars of past and present who still put their bodies on the line to make great action cinema.
Donnie Yen, most famous for his portrayal as Ip Man in the successful film series, plays Hahou Mo. In jail for accidentally killing a man with his awesome Kung Fu skills, he spends his days giving sports massages to some of the older inmates who gripe about aches and pains. On the news one day he sees reports of a spate of killings involving martial arts masters who have been slain by someone more deadly. Someone with more awesome kung fu skills. Hahou takes the logical step of calling the investigating team to offer his awesome kung fu skills in tracking the killer. It’s kind of like Richard Gere in The Jackal or Chris Hemsworth in Blackhat but more with more punching and kicking.
Of course the police think this is a FANTASTIC idea and so Hahou is out and helping them with their investigation, looking over crime scenes with a forensic eye for kung fu injuries. Wang Baoqiang plays Fung Yu-Sau the crazed killer who is on a quest to defeat the strongest master – in his local city area – in some sort of Highlander “there can only be one… awesome kung fu guy” scenario.
Kung Fu Killer as you would expect really comes alive in the fight scenes. An early scrap involving Fung Yu-Sau and one of his victims takes place atop a dinosaur skeleton that wins points for being so ridiculous, it’s massively entertaining. The final showdown between Hahou and Fung is also well choreographed as they battle on a highway avoiding trucks, bikes and cars. Donnie Yen is certainly a master of his filmic craft and is a likeable screen presence bringing both earthly knowledge and school boy glee to this role but the story and script are so wholly ridiculous it’s hard to ever get on board with anything going on.
Director Teddy Chan (director of Jackie Chan’s The Accidental Spy and actor in Infernal Affairs 2) has imbued the film with a weirdly neon blue colour palette that makes you feel like you’re watching a toothpaste commercial. It looks kind of pleasant but lumbers the film with this pristine sheen where you feel sometimes a more down and dirty look would help to ground the film somehow, make the action more intense and not make it so obvious that the film is silly as all hell. Not that Kung Fu cinema in general is known for it’s kitchen sink realism, but Kung Fu Killer goes someway to try and create a real world atmosphere. The ultimate problem though is that it’s quite a dull watch. Whenever there isn’t a fight going on the dialogue scenes amount to a “I don’t care, oh you’re talking about martial arts forensics. Bring on the fists!”.
Ending with a dedication to all case and crew that made the film and the industry happen, it runs through an impressive roll-call of all the greats filling in minor roles in the film. It’s a charming moment and possibly the highlight of the film, I just wish that they had saved something so special for a more spectacular offering.
Kung Fu Killer is released in cinemas Feb 20th 2015 and DVD from Feb 23rd 2015 via Signature Entertainment.