In Fact, It’s a Little Bit Frightening

Kung Fu Killer

by Hope Madden

Do you love Hong Kong action movies? Director Teddy Chan does. To prove it, he’s created a love letter to the genre with his latest film KUNG FU KILLER.

Someone is murdering martial arts masters, beating each with his own specialty. Does the noble (yet righteously imprisoned) master Hanhou Mo (Donnie Yen) hold the key to finding the culprit before he kills again? And even if he does, can he be trusted?

The film’s a pretty traditional police procedural – spring Hanhou Mo from prison and he’ll help you catch your killer – but really it’s an excuse for hand to hand combat, then blade to blade combat, sometimes on rooftop, sometimes in boats, sometimes on giant skeletons of some kind, sometimes in traffic…

To enjoy this film you will have to open yourself up to it. It helps if you can also overlook the poor police work…and the acting…and the writing. But let’s be honest, that’s hardly the point of this exercise. One guy is killing masters in each discrete martial arts skill – weapons, boxing, grappling, etc. – and working his way toward the one man who has mastered them all, Hanhou Mo.

Is it true what evil Fung Yu-Sau (Baoqiang Wang) says, that martial arts is meant to kill? Can Hanhou Mo do as his beloved asks and restrain his fists? Oh Hanhou Mo, why must you be so damn noble?!

Chan celebrates his genre, peppering scenes with loving odes and fun cameos. Yen – veteran of every facet of martial arts and Hong Kong filmmaking – may not be much of an actor, but he’s fun to watch in this mash note of a movie. His Hanhou Mo is as elegant and restrained as Wang’s Fung Yu-Sau is disheveled and explosive, making them an intriguing set of oppositions in battle.

Chen’s camera is the real star, though, capturing the flashing swords and flailing limbs like surgical instruments or ballet moves. He throws in enough retro reaction shots to overjoy longtime fans – clearly the audience for the film – but finds his own visual flair.

KUNG FU KILLER is not a great movie. But it knows what it is, and with one goal in mind it delivers the goods.


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