Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film
reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong
Another interesting production from Dennis Yu Wan-kong's
short-lived distribution company, COOLIE KILLER stars handsome Charlie
Chin Hsiang-lin, who found considerable fame in his native Taiwan (from
starring in a series Qiong Yao melodramas, often opposite Brigitte Lin
Ching-hsia) but was never able to duplicate that success in Hong Kong.
Ko Da-fu (Chin) is the leader of a five member hit squad that only accepts contracts taken out on visitors, not native Hongkies. After years in the business, Ko's reaction time and reflexes are starting to slow down and he barely escapes when attacked by a gang of assassins on rollerskates. His four partners are not so lucky, ending up as victims of the Wa-hing triad gang, who sought to avenge a Japanese associate that one of Ko's men terminated. The Wa-hing bosses (including Kwan Hoi-shan, Lau Siu-ming, and Chan Shen) decide to spare Ko's life, in deference to the fact that he used to be with the gang, a decision they soon regret.
Chin again. Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Fleeing to Sai Ying Pun, where he used to work as a coolie, a severely injured Ko is nursed back to health by local girl Ton Ke-yee (Cecilia Yip Tung). However, he is far from safe, the victim of a conspiracy with far reaching implications for the Asian underworld, and will need the help of slovenly but determined Inspector Chung (veteran martial arts star Yueh Hua) to emerge alive.
Chin and a young Cecilia Yip Tung. Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Well above average compared to similar HK crime thrillers of its time, COOLIE KILLER proffers some terrific small scale fights and shootouts and the narrative takes a couple of surprising turns in the final reel. Several blackly comic touches enhance the expected instances of brutal violence and Terry Tong Kei-ming (a talented director who never lived up to the potential displayed in early outings like this) stages several potentially ordinary moments with panache (particularly when Ko is being chased by the rollerskate killers around the circular lobby of his apartment building, a bit that plays like a deadly version of the roller derby matches that used appear on Saturday afternoon TV). The mix and match soundtrack includes some early Tangerine Dream and Danny Lee Sau-yin appears in a supporting role as...wait for it...a cop.