Killer 2 (2003) Movie Review

“Killer 2” purports to be a sequel to 2000’s “Killer”, starring Jordan Chan and Simon Lui as knife assassins on the verge of retirement. But while getting into the killing business is as easy as picking up a knife, getting out isn’t quite so easy, as our heroes quickly discovered. “Killer 2” looks to be a cheaper version of “Killer”, and this time stars a cast of relative unknowns. The movie begins with scenes from the original film, but beyond the “killer” premise, there’s no relation between the two films.

Ronny Cheung leads our new group of killers as Mike, a returning expatriate who, along with brother Ching (Oscar Leung) and Ching’s friends Tseun (Sam Chan) and Shun (Leo Lo), decides to become hitmen to make money. Really, that’s all the ambition these four young men — teenagers, really — show. But after their first killing goes awry, the foursome tries to flee the city. Except the job didn’t go awry after all. You see, our foursome are so addicted to pot that they were high when they were given their assignment, and what they thought was a bad mistake that could cost them their lives was actually not.

It’s unpredictable moments like that that makes Steve Cheng’s “Killer 2” a slightly better film than the original, which played it straight from beginning to end and had that sense of doom about it that made its downbeat ending entirely unsurprising. In one of the sequel’s oddball moments, the friends get wasted (as per their usual routine) and end up sleeping with each other’s girlfriends. Also, Tseun informs them that someone “accidentally” sodomized him during the night. Later, after Ching starts questioning his ability, Shun takes him to a temple where a “master” teaches him to become invulnerable. But the guy is a hoax, and believing himself to be invincible, Ching stabs himself with a knife!

The friends work for an underboss name Brother Xing, who prides himself on his filmmaking skills — that is, filming people he’s torturing. Later in the film, Xing’s feud with a rival boss sends the boys on their second and last mission. And really, “boys” is the proper term. The movie treats the characters as it should — as cavalier kids with dreams of killing people not only for money, but because they think it’ll bring respect and be “fun”. Their first mission ends badly, with Ching losing two fingers, and their killer instincts proving worthless. From that moment on, things progress exactly as you think it would for some kids with a warped sense of respect and what it means to live.

Surprisingly, the script takes time to give two of the four friends some background. Mike is at first hesitant, going along with the whole “killing for money” thing because Ching is so gung-ho about it. As fate would have it, Mike proves to be the brains of the operation, managing to think like a killer even though he never had any intentions of being one. We also spend a lot of time with Sam Chan’s Tseun, whose home life is suburbanite compared to his compatriots’ nonexistent home life. Tseun has wealthy parents, holds down a job, and for all intents and purposes has everything the other three would kill for.

“Killer 2” is decent, with some better than expected performances from its young and untried cast. The writing is offbeat enough to be both funny and realistic, and Steve Cheng’s direction, which goes from wacky to competent, seems appropriate for the story at hand — although there are times when Cheng proves to be completely out of his element. Action fans won’t find the movie to their liking, because “Killer 2” is lacking in anything approaching decent action. The knife killings are shot in a blurry technique, making them practically indistinguishable from, say, someone running around in an endless circle.

Not surprisingly, things go badly for our heroes, and the movie becomes very grim toward the end. Is it a surprise that Xing will betray the friends? Or that their good life will prove momentary at best? Despite a loose first act and an interesting second act, the third act unfolds predictably, making an interesting film clich’d. That is, unless you’ve never seen a Hong Kong Hitman/Triad movie before, in which case you may not see it coming.

Giving credit where credit is due, “Killer 2” is probably a lot better than it has any right to be. It was obviously made on a moderate budget, and the cast is young. The result is a sometimes funny, sometimes realistic, but ultimately familiar movie. Then again, it could have been a lot worst.

Steve Cheng (director)