“Run and Kill” is another Category III film from the prolific master of the genre, Billy Tang (“Red to Kill”, “Dr. Lamb”). Given the trashy DVD cover and the rating, prospective viewers would be forgiven for expecting another bargain basement splattering of badly plotted sex and violence.
However, “Run to Kill” is actually very different than expected, being a suspenseful action film that whilst extremely violent and unflinchingly nasty, is also quite funny and carries an interesting message. It stands apart from the vast majority of Category III efforts by being nicely structured, well directed, and perhaps most shocking of all, actually resembles a ‘proper’ film. Although the content is generally distasteful, and though there are a few truly horrific scenes, this is a film that may appeal to viewers in general, far more so than the other, inferior sleaze-fests it is usually lumped in with.
The plot is centered on Cheung (Kent Cheng, “Ancient Chinese Whorehouse”), a friendly fat man who runs a gas store and has an apparently happy family life. Things change when he catches his wife (Li Li, “Suburb Murder”) in bed with another man, and he turns to the bottle for comfort. Unfortunately for him, while getting drunk in a bar his sorrows are overheard by a girl who offers to put him in contact with a guy who can kill his wife for him. Hopelessly drunk, Cheung agrees, and the next morning the killing is carried out by some Vietnamese thugs. Matters turn even worse when Cheung cannot afford to pay the gang, and he flees to the Chinese mainland where he takes refuge with another gang, including dangerous psychotic Fung (Simon Yam, recently in “Moving Targets”). Things get badly out of control and Cheung finds himself on a rollercoaster ride to hell that threatens to claim his life and the lives of those he loves.
“Run and Kill” works surprisingly well as an action film, mainly because director Tang makes an effort to break with the general conventions of the Category III film. The narrative is tight and fast-paced, with a logical if nightmarish sequence of events, and the proceedings are thankfully free of the pointless sex scenes that usually slow down similar genre films. The whole story is actually quite gripping and unpredictable, keeping the viewer guessing from start to finish. Given that the film is very violent and nihilistic, this often takes the rather base form of trying to guess what will go wrong next; but still, the effort is much appreciated.
Similarly, there are no wild shifts in tone, and apart from a few comedic scenes at the start used to establish Cheung’s love for his family, the film generally sticks to its guns. This gives the action and violence far more impact than they might otherwise have had, and there are some generally harrowing scenes. Tang is actually quite restrained (by his standards at least) and instead of the usual bombardment of gore and rape, he picks his moments carefully, eschewing out and out sadism for gritty, bloody action. Having said this, viewers should be warned that one scene in particular is utterly horrifying and challenges “The Untold Story” for the award of most shocking murder sequence.
Also quite unusual for the genre is the fact that the characters are fleshed out, and if not believable, at least somewhat sympathetic. This is especially true of Cheung, whose transformation from mild mannered fat man to enraged killer is gradual and effective. There is even a degree of moral shading, with some effort made to explain the motivations of lead madman Fung. Thankfully the acting is quite good (especially in comparison to similar films), most notably Yam, who gives a terrifying and intense performance as Fung.
The message behind “Run and Kill” seems to be that we must all take responsibility for our actions, whether drunk or not. This interesting and universal theme is touched upon several times, and is never hammered home or cheapened with overly obvious plotting. Again, this serves to lift the film above other Category III films that strive for little more than cheap titillation.
Overall, “Run and Kill” comes highly recommended, not only to Category III fans, but also to fans of Asian cinema in general. It is an exciting, violent ride of a film that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat trying to guess both where the plot will go next and which cast members will survive to tell the tale.
Hin Sing ‘Billy’ Tang (director)
CAST: Kent Cheng….Cheng ‘Fatty’ Kau Ng
Sui Wah Fok….Wah
Esther Wing Ho Kwan….Fanny
Danny Lee….Inspector Man
Li-Li Li….Fatty’s Wife