Movies like Billy Chung’s “Killer” makes me break out that old standby: It ain’t bad, but it ain’t all that good, either.
“Killer”, not to be confused with John Woo’s “The Killer”, stars Jordan Chan (“Bio-Zombie”) as Tung, one of four close-knit professional killers. The other three are Po (Simon Lui), Ho (Ken Wong), and Mantis (Mark Cheng). The foursome are “knife killers”, which means their weapon of choice are knives, mostly because knives are hard for the cops to track, and anyone can carry knives in Hong Kong. (As opposed to, you know, guns.)
Of the four, Tung is looking for a way out, and thinks investing their blood money in legitimate business will do the trick. He also runs a restaurant and has plans to open another one. Po, on the other hand, is dealing with his failing relationship with Ivy (YoYo Mung), who is starting to act on a secret desire to be with Tung; Po seems to know this, and yet says nothing about it. Mantis, on the other hand, is busy having an affair with the mistress of a rival gangster, a subplot that will no doubt become big trouble when the gangster finds out — and he will; they always do.
As with all movies in the Hitman genre, Tung represents the most stereotypical — he’s not only our narrator, but also he’s one of those guys who doesn’t necessarily like the job, and is always looking for a way out. Po, on the other hand, realizes he was born to be a gangster, and relishes in the blood and violence of it all, even if everything else around him is falling apart. Ho and Mantis are too much in the background to really develop as characters, while YoYo Mung (“Expect the Unexpected”), despite having extensive screen time, fails to register as a significant character. As a result, Ivy’s many understated scenes with Tung, where nothing of note happens, reeks of padding time.
The conflict with the rival gang, as expected, caps off the film. I won’t say who lives and dies, but if you know your Hong Kong Hitman movies then you can pretty much guess by the atmosphere director Billy Chung provides. Speaking of which, director Billy Chung showcases the same sleek style and sleazy atmosphere he showed in “Devil Face, Angel Heart”. I’ve always thought Chung had promise, but for some reason his movies always seem to get tainted by sleaze. In this case, we get a gang rape at a car dealership, and then a man is anally rape at the wrong end of a gun. Why, Billy, why?
If I didn’t know better, I would swear Simon Lui (“Sleeping with the Dead”) was the actual star of “Killer”. Lui’s Po has all the best lines, the best moments, and is involved in most, if not all, of the significant plot points. Chan’s Tung, on the other hand, seems to be missing for a lot of the action and intrigue. Of course it explains a lot to learn that Lui is a co-writer of the screenplay. And yes, if you were wondering, Jordan Chan does still sound as if he’s chewing and talking at the same time, and doing neither very successfully.
As a Hitman movie, “Killer” comes up short in a lot of places. It’s got the moody atmosphere down, but Billy Chung fails to elicit much excitement with the action scenes. Compare the action here to “My Schoolmate, the Barbarian”, and it’s hard to imagine the same man directed both movies. It doesn’t help that the killers are armed with knives, which means they always have to park their car, wait for the victim to show up, and then charge him from, oh, 100 yards away. And yet, not a single victim ever sees them coming! You know, the sight of 4 men in ski masks and sharp knives running at you in the street for what seems like a whole minute seems like the sort of thing one wouldn’t necessarily, er, miss.
John Woo needn’t worry about his masterpiece being confused with Chung’s “Killer”. The two may share the same name, but that’s absolutely where the similarities end. It’s Woo by a mile.
Billy Chung (director)
CAST: Jordan Chan …. Tung
Simon Lui …. Po
Ken Wong …. Ho
Mark Cheng …. Mantis
YoYo Mung …. Ivy