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December 11th, 2000 Issue #33

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.

(2000; Universe Films Distribution Company / M Productions / Buddy Film Creative Workshop): 5/10

Cover art courtesy Universe.
Dou sau

Dao shou

Sabre Master

Jordan Chan Siu-chun and Kenneth Tsang Kong. Image courtesy Universe.

Prosperous triad hitmen Tung (Jordan Chan Siu-chun), Po (Simon Lui Yu-yeung), Yung (Ken Wong Hap-hei), and Mantis (Mark Cheng Ho-nam) get their latest assignment from middleman Prince (Kenneth Tsang Kong): eliminate deadbeat trading company owner Crazy Lai. However, thanks to a mix-up, the man's brother is the one who gets chopped, necessitating that the team make a second attempt. Naturally, this will be far more dangerous, as their target knows he is on someone's death list. Although they are able to kill the man this time, Yung is fatally wounded. On top of that, Mantis' sexual appetites finally get the better of him when he foolishly takes up with the beautiful Pauline (Claire Yiu Kar-lei), whom mid-level gangster Fai (Wong Chi-yeung) considers to be his property.

Claire Yiu Kar-lei and Mark Cheng Ho-nam. Image courtesy Universe.

When he finds out about their affair, Fai has his men gang rape Pauline but she and Mantis' lives are saved by the intervention of Po, who has his subordinate sodomize Fai with an air gun. The hood is anxious for revenge and his boss, Tsimshatsui triad kingpin Snake Skin (Lo Mang), is ready to back Fai up. Po refuses to go into hiding, leaving the three partners with only one foreseeable option: kill the two men before they can strike. In a subplot, Tung finds himself increasingly attracted to Ivy (Yoyo Mung Kar-wai), Po's girlfriend of ten years, who is growing increasingly distant from him, and it is unclear just how Po will react once he finds out.

Simon Lui Yu-yeung, Lo Mang, and Wong Chi-yeung (left to right). Image courtesy Universe.

Co-written by Lui, Edmond Pang Ho-Yu, and director Billy Chung Siu-hung (PARAMOUNT MOTEL), KILLER strives to add some extra character and dimension to the usual triad movie scenario but never quite succeeds. The four protagonists are all genre stereotypes (the intelligent level-headed one, the hot-headed psycho, the amiable dumb guy, and the sex-crazed drug fiend) and we never learn enough about their backgrounds to make them interesting. Similarly, Ivy is not fleshed out enough for her concerns and desires to induce much in the way of viewer empathy, though Yoyo Mung does what she can with the part. There are some nice directorial touches here and there (particularly during Claire Yiu's last scene) but, ultimately, KILLER has little to make it stand out in an increasingly overcrowded and prosaic field.

Yoyo Mung Kar-wai. Image courtesy Universe.

DVD Specs:

Universe #5391
Dolby Digital (5.1)
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks Optional Subtitles In English, Chinese (Traditional or Simplified), Bahasa (Malaysia), and Korean
8 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips
etterboxed (1.70:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
Category IIB (for mid-range violence, sexual violence, mild sexual content, and drug use)
88 Minutes

DVD menu courtesy Universe.

The picture is a tad soft, and a little hazy in places, but good overall. The stereo mix has decent presence and some satisfying directional effects but is not as powerful as one might expect, given the intermittently emphatic visuals. Extras consist of the theatrical trailer (which makes the movie seem more action-packed than it really is), trailers for THOSE WERE THE DAYS (2000), DIAL D FOR DEMONS, and QUEENIE & KING THE LOVERS, bilingual Star Files on Jordan Chan, Simon Lui, and Mark Cheng, and brief interviews with those three actors and Ken Wong (Traditional or Simplified Chinese subtitles only).

Ken Wong Hap-hei. Image courtesy Universe.

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.

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