Ballistic Kiss (1998) Movie Review

Ballistic Kiss is the kind of movie that we in the States refer to as “Vanity Projects.” Such projects usually involve a known actor, already famous and with an established name and reputation, who takes on multiple chores for the film, mostly as star, director, producer, and sometimes as writer or co-writer. The smarter actors bring in an established writer, cinematographer, and editor to help them craft the film into a coherent whole. Those who aren’t so smart decides to take on as many roles as possible in order to put their names under as many credits as possible. Ballistic Kiss is a vanity project and the known actor doing the posing is Donnie Yen.

Donnie Yen stars as Cat, a former NYPD cop who was framed by his partner and jailed, and is now working as a reclusive hitman in Hong Kong. Things get complicated for the loner Cat when he develops a crush on Carrie, a woman living across the street from him and whom he has a bad habit of spying on on a regular basis. Unfortunately for the killer, Carrie is also an Interpol Detective (Interpol is an International Police Agency) who is investigating his latest hit. When Cat goes on a last hit before retirement, he runs into the same person who had framed him in New York, another ex-cop name Wesley. The run-in starts a chain of events that dissolves into mass shootouts, destroyed apartments, and multiple kidnappings.

To say that Ballistic Kiss fails on every level is like saying water is wet. It’s really quite insufficient to describe just how badly Ballistic Kiss comes across, and the most ironic (or should I say, tragic) thing is that for the first 30 minutes, the movie is very watchable, even good. Donnie Yen steps behind the camera as director and mistakes groovy camera angles and nonstop movement for creativity. While not completely a failure as a director, Yen proves to be unreliable as a storyteller, as the movie becomes a mishmash of unbelievable scenes, endless shootouts, and bloodletting.

Although I’m all for mass bloodshed in the veins of John Woo (pun intended), I do like some context to my bloodshed. Ballistic Kiss mistakes lengthy shootouts where men fire off thousands of rounds with a single 6-shot revolver without reloading once and another hitman pumps an apartment living room full of shotgun shells for 10 straight minutes (again without reloading) for story. And dear God, how many times do I have to watch a movie about a hitman who is trying to go straight by performing that last job that gets complicated? The premise has been done to death, and each time I see it being repeated, I groan at the lack of creativity. Surely there must be something a hitman can do other than “that one last job before retirement?”

Ballistic Kiss is obviously an attempt to revive the Hong Kong Hitman Genre, made famous by John Woo and his favorite muse Chow Yun Fat in such movies as The Killer and Hard-Boiled. Indeed, Yen seems to be doing his best Yun Fat impression as he grimaces and fires off weapons from both fists for long — and I mean long — periods at a time. In the movie’s climactic shootout, Yen’s Cat and his arch nemesis, Wesley, stands approximately 10 feet from one another and unleashes about 5,000 rounds of ammunition at one another for what seems like forever and neither manages to shoot the other. Although they did manage to destroy everything else between them. I guess shooting boxes is easier than shooting a guy standing in the open shooting back at you. Right?

The rest of Ballistic Kiss’s cast fares better than the leading man. Annie Wong as Carrie, the love interest and Interpol agent, shows that she can act despite a badly written part. As if to point out the absurdity of Ballistic Kiss’s onscreen happenings, Yen and writer Bey Logan makes Carrie fall in love with Wesley immediately after one police interview. Nevermind that Wesley, although handsome, seems indifferent to her. That doesn’t prevent Carrie from showing up at Wesley’s hideout a day later in short-shorts and go-go boots claiming to want another interview, but obviously wanting something else. (Hint hint.)

The actor playing Wesley (whose name I was unable to find in the credit lines) does acquit himself well. He’s not entirely menacing, but is probably the only likeable character in the entire movie, and that’s saying a lot when he’s the villain. He has the movie’s best lines and the actor shows promise as a thespian. Donnie Yen the actor makes another bad mistake by mistaking dark shades and groovy eyewear for acting.

Despite all of its flaws (and there are a lot of them, folks) Ballistic Kiss does boast a number of good scenes. Director Donnie Yen makes great use of reflective eyewear and Hong Kong’s neon glow has never looked better.

Donnie Yen (director) / Bey Logan (screenplay)
CAST: Annie Wong … Carrie
Donnie Yen … Cat
Rongguang Yu

Buy Ballistic Kiss on DVD