Fantasia Festival is one of the times of year that I love. As mentioned before, 11 movies lined up this year. Last year, my Hong Kong selection was the last movie in the lineup. It feels like I unintentionally flipped it around because this year, my Hong Kong selection kicks off the festival. Its definitely a good thing. Especially with a two movie night on the first day.
The most unexpected part is that the lineup was intense. Its really intense for a Chinese movie. The most packed I’ve been to it. Maybe it has to do with Donnie Yen being our main guy in this crime thriller called Kung Fu Killer. I’m a huge fan of Donnie Yen and I’ve seen almost every movie that he’s been in. This one boasts that its all about martial arts, so I’m totally down for it 🙂
Let’s check it out!
Kung Fu Killer (2014)
(also called: Kung Fu Jungle)
Director: Teddy Chan
Cast: Donnie Yen, Baoqiang Wang, Charlie Yeung, Michelle Bai, Alex Fong, Deep Ng, Kang Yu, Xing Yu, Siu-Wong Fan
Three years ago, martial arts instructor for the police force Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen) accidentally kills an opponent in a duel and confesses his crime right away. This lands him with a five year sentence. When a man is found dead by brutal force in a suspicious way, Mo does everything possible to offer up his knowledge to help the police. In exchange, they have to let him out. Reluctantly, Detective Luk (Charlie Yeung) recruits his help as they track down the killer who is targeting the top martial arts masters and challenging them to a duel to death. Will Mo be able to stop the killer before too many lives are lost?
Right from the very cool opening scene with credits, Donnie Yen is not only the main lead but the action director of Kung Fu Killer. That is as promising as it can get for a movie which focuses on the true essence of martial arts, reaching for the roots. The best way to approach this review is to look at step by step. If you go to this movie, what are you expecting? For me, phenomenal martial arts and action sequences. If you look at the actors recruited for even the short roles of the martial arts masters here, they are all deeply rooted in various aspects of martial arts. With the right cast, this movie speaks with the authenticity of the arts which is there whether we venture into the world of boxing, kicking, grappling, or weapons. It touches on all of it. Every action scene is tense and thriller to watch even if you can predict the outcome. On top of that, trying to stay traditional with the arts, it still knows how to add creativity to the scenes to make it as original and breathtaking, especially that last battle.
Kung Fu Killer has a solid enough story to carry it through. It also carries a few meaningful messages about what the essence of martial arts, how to keep control over your emotions and remembering your responsibilities and staying honorable. It can even carry the message that life is about the choices you make, about finding that balance to treat something as an art and not a killing device. All very relevant to action movies like this which leans toward a more violent side with a brutal and vicious villain like Fung Yu-Sau (Baoqiang Wang). The bad guy here, Fung, is a peculiar one. A part of me doesn’t quite buy his act but there is no doubt that his character was scripted to be a maniac, a martial arts crazed maniac who is all about the ancient methods of his training to become No.1 that its become an obsession. For that part, this guy does a really good job. He’s a bit of an unpredictable goof in his expressions and whatnot but he has mad martial arts skills that he gets to show off as he fights each opponent.
But, as brilliant as some of the casting decisions were in the fighting domain. Props goes out to Michelle Bai who shows off some stellar sword fighting abilities, I wasn’t so excited about our main actress here playing Detective Luk by Charlie Yeung. Don’t get me wrong. I like Charlie Yeung as a soft docile girl. Something about her doesn’t pull off that tough lady cop thing really well. Plus, the theatre laughed a lot at the dialogue, especially hers. I don’t know if it was like they were liking it or not but for me, something felt like it was missing. She just didn’t seem commanding enough for that role. While I’m at the dialogue, this one has some pretty bad script in general. I’m not saying anyone really cares but I didn’t need to read subtitles but when I did catch a glimpse of it, I kind of giggled a little at it because watching it was already a little laugh out loud but those subtitles. But then, there aren’t all that many lines. I was there for the action part of it. If I had to be nitpicky, there was a scene or two of bad CGI and then one particular scene that I swore I saw the wire during a battle. So really, just little flaws here and there. Plus, they offset it by putting Alex Fong in here even if its just a small Police Chief Inspector role. I loved this guy when he used to do TV series and he makes a great cop. Okay, need to turn off the fangirl mode.
Overall, Kung Fu Killer isn’t meant to be a cinematic masterpiece. It carries a decent and rather simple story that brings in the essence of the battle in martial arts. The tribute of martial arts gives it a variety of fighting skills and with the stakes of death being the final result, every fight is high intense and thrilling to watch. Most of the cast was done perfectly, especially getting actual actors trained in martial arts, there was just one casting choice I wasn’t fully convinced worked to this film’s advantage. However, even though the dialogue was not exactly great, I was there for some mind-blowing action sequences and that delivered all the way!
Have you seen Kung Fu Killer? Are you fan of Donnie Yen and/or martial arts?
Check back tomorrow for the review of the second movie at Fantasia that I saw and a creature feature from Ireland called The Hallow!