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2 reviews, 6 user ratings

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Fulltime Killer
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by Matt Mulcahey

"Why can't Hollywood come up with an action movie that is this damn fun?"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: Making a parody of Hong Kong action flicks seems like a fairly futile gesture. After all, how do you subvert a genre of movies so filled with violent and stylistic excess that the films themselves already skirt dangerously close to the line of parody.

For the directing team of Johnny To and Ka-Fai Wai the answer is simple: Get your hands on every crane and dolly you can find, then cram in every Hong Kong action cliché imaginable, exaggerating each element just enough to go over-the-top but fall short of camp.

The result is ceaselessly energetic and mercilessly stylish, an action movie about action movies that exists solely in the fantasy world of celluloid, constantly bending the genre's rules but without breaking them.

The plot and the characters are intentionally familiar, as a young, up and coming assassin named Tok sets his sights on knocking off No.1 assassin O to claim the title of world’s most lethal mercenary.

Who exactly determines these international assassin rankings that everyone seems to go by is one of the great mysteries of exploitation cinema, unsolved in the 1,000 times this plot has been used in Hong Kong action movies or in the 1,000 times it has been used in westerns.

Caught in between the pair of dueling death brokers is the beautiful Chin, who begins the film as O’s part-time housekeeper but becomes Tok’s lover as the upstart tries to lure his older, wiser counterpart out into the open.

Also thrown in for good measure is a hardened Interpol agent (played by veteran actor Simon Yam), serving not only as the film's unreliable narrarator but also to ensure that every stock character in the genre is accounted for.

While Fulltime Killer takes great pleasure in twisting the conventions of its predecessors, the movie also pays respect to its influences with clever homages (sprinkled throughout the script by former Austin Chronicle Hong Kong movie critic Joey O’ Bryan) ranging from Crying Freeman and The Professional to El Mariachi and Point Break.

However, when it comes to creating its adrenalized set pieces, Fulltime Killer shows an imagination all of its own as Siu-Keung Chengh’s camerawork dizzies and dazzles, conjuring up a vibrant display of visual decadence and contagious energy.

Some of the credit for Fulltime Killer’s endless stream of cool also must be bestowed upon Andy Lau as Tok and Takashi Sorimachi as O.

The pair exudes such an aura of confidence, invincibility and sheer bad-assery that you hardly blink when either of them walks through a swarm of police bullets and, without even glancing at their target, take out an entire precinct with deadly accuracy.

Fulltime Killer has all you could possibly ask of an action movie. There’s gun battles with rivers of fake blood so massive they sometimes splash onto the camera, there’s a sadistic, gleefully psychopathic hitman with a rare brain condition and there’s enough movie-geek referentiality to give fan-boys wet dreams.

In short, Fulltime Killers is everything your typical American action movie is not: It’s original, it’s slick without seeming pre-packaged and, above all things, it is one hell of a good time.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7097&reviewer=255
originally posted: 03/21/03 18:31:35
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/18/05 K. Sear Fun while maintaing a dark edge. 4 stars
5/29/04 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng A great action movie with a good plot. But similiar to the movie "Assassins". 4 stars
6/26/03 alfredo Very slick, stylish - great movie. 5 stars
6/26/03 Stacy I really enjoyed this hong kong action flick 4 stars
5/20/03 Joy Ting Its not the best script but the execution was like a symphony concierto . 5 stars
3/26/03 Jon The slickest Chinese(actually they speak 4 languages!) movie I've see in awhile 4 stars
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Directed by
  Johnny To
  Ka-Fai Wai

Written by
  Joey O'Bryan
  Ho Cheung Ping
  Ka-Fai Wai

  Andy Lau
  Takashi Sorimachi
  Simon Yam
  Kelly Lin
  Cherrie Ying
  Suet Lam

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