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August 7th, 2000 Issue #3

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 Kong Filmography.

Coolie Killer
(1982; Century Motion Picture Co.): 7/10

Cover art courtesy Mei Ah.
Saat chut Sai Ying Pun

Sha chu Xi Ying Pan

Fight Out of Sai Ying Pun

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.

Charlie Chin Hsiang-lin. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

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.

DVD Specs:

Mei Ah #DVD-275
Dolby Digital Mono (2.1 and 5.1)
Cantonese and Mandarin tracks
Optional subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
Letterboxed (1.95:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
Category IIB
91 minutes

DVD menu courtesy Mei Ah.
COOLIE KILLER is presented slightly overmatted and the source material is afflicted with heavy speckling throughout and some occasional prominent dirt marks. Mei Ah has made two alterations: the original title credit has been deleted and replaced with a video-generated Chinese-only title card and the end credits are new, video generated, and fullscreen. The DVD also features the sort of slightly hazy look typical of the company's product and contrasts tend to be weak. Those complaints aside, the presentation is reasonably good, with fairly vivid colours and only a few instances of noticeable artifacting. There are 5.1 and 2.1 audio options, for both the Cantonese and Mandarin tracks, and the 2.1 versions are more satisfying. All four tracks sound compressed and distorted, with no real range, but are not any worse than one would expect from a nearly twenty year old independent movie. There are no time functions and the only extra is the theatrical trailer for Taylor Wong Tai-loi's Vietnam drama STARS AND ROSES.


Copyright © John Charles 2000. All Rights Reserved.

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review