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November 26th, 2001 Issue #84

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

Fulltime Killer
(2001; Teamwork Motion Pictures / Milkyway Image / CMC Magnetics Corporation)

Cover art courtesy Deltamac.

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Chuen jik sat sau
Mandarin: Quan zhi sha shou
English: Fulltime Killer


Director Johnnie To Kei-fung. Courtesy Deltamac.

Johnnie To Kei-fung and Wai Kar-fai's shot at the international market, FULLTIME KILLER completely lacks the resonance and intriguing plotting one has come to expect from Milkyway, while displaying an obsession with surface gloss that is all too Hollywood. Japanese assassin Ono (the handsome but bland Takashi Sorimachi) is considered the tops in his field but, while doing a job in Kuala Lumpur, he is forced to kill an old school friend who recognized him at the scene. This compromises his identity and provides a pair of law enforcers (Simon Yam Tat-wah and Cherrie Ying Choi-yee) with a new lead as to the man's whereabouts.

Kelly Lin and...Bill Clinton?! Image courtesy Deltamac.

Meanwhile, movie-addicted HK killer Tok (Andy Lau Tak-wah) is determined to do what it takes to steal away the top spot. The blatantly wacko Tok (who performs one hit while wearing a Bill Clinton mask!) begins by romancing Chin (the perpetually uninteresting Kelly Lin Hsi-lei showing little improvement here), a trilingual Taiwanese girl, who periodically cleans Ono's apartment and is clearly someone the killer has developed feelings for. Eventually, through a series of events not worth relating, the men meet face-to-face for a friendly evening of dinner and drink, followed by a decisive duel in a fireworks warehouse Tok has seeded with weapons.

Takashi Sorimachi. Image courtesy Deltamac.

Despite the fact that we jump all over Asia and back again, the story is never very involving and plays out like it had to be jerry-rigged around a series of pre-conceived action setpieces. With references to every influential action hit in arms reach (including EL MARIACHI, TERMINATOR 2, POINT BREAK, THE PROFESSIONAL, TIME AND TIDE, and the CRYING FREEMAN manga / anime), the screenplay ultimately shows that any movie so obsessed with homage cannot possibly deliver anything imaginative. Admittedly, there are indications that portions of the film (the climax, in particular) were not meant to be taken all that seriously but, if the creators were indeed striving for parody, the movie is too self-conscious and obvious to work on that level either. It also does not help that large portions of KILLER are in English for no logical reason at all; Lau and Yam are unable to convey anything but the most basic emotions in their flat English deliveries, making it even more difficult for the viewer to care about their one-dimensional characters. Although he is mostly allowed to act in his native tongue, Sorimachi is no more interesting; as for Lin, even if her character behaved in a logical fashion, one would still be hard pressed to understand Chin's fascination with Ono. Like all that surrounds them, the action setpieces are flashy but unexciting, consisting of staging and camerawork that have lost their edge through repetition and some clunky CGI. In his opening voiceover, Lau's character says he loves to watch any kind of action movie "as long as they're not boring and have fresh ideas," a bit of irony that is more pointed than any of the half-baked philosophy his character offers up in this highly disappointing, wearisomely hollow exercise. Lam Suet (also speaking English) appears briefly as Tok's boss.

Simon Yam Tat-wah. Image courtesy Deltamac.

DVD Specs:

Deltamac #DVD88033
Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS options
Sync Sound International Version (Cantonese, Japanese, English, Mandarin) and Dubbed Mandarin Language Tracks
Optional Subtitles In English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
12 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With (Tiny) Clips
Letterboxed (1.80:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
100 Minutes
Contains brutal violence, brief language, and mild sexuality

DVD menu courtesy Deltamac.

Film Board Ratings and Consumer Advice

Australia: R18+ (Medium Level Violence)
Hong Kong: IIB
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]


Aside from a lack of anamorphic enhancement, Deltamac has done a very nice job here. The print has some minor wear and a few sequences are slightly weak and / or grainy. Overall, however, the picture looks sharp and detailed, with deep, attractive hues and a good contrast range. Like the company's release of CHINA STRIKE FORCE, the audio options are available in both Dolby Digital and DTS. The original sync sound track is powerful and enveloping, while the Mandarin version (which is entirely in that language) is a bit flat by comparison. The English subtitles are well above average, though they also stay on during the English dialogue sequences. Extras consist of a 25 minute "Making Of..." program (with permanent Chinese subtitles only), 23 minutes of untranslated behind the scenes footage (a large chunk of which finds poor Lau struggling with his Japanese dialogue), bilingual character and crew information, a photo gallery, and a trailer (like the film it advertises, all of the credits here are in English only). The DVD’s main menu features some well-designed animation and the disc comes packaged in a clear keep case with the insert printed on plastic, rather than paper.

Andy Lau. Image courtesy Deltamac.

FULLTIME KILLER is available at Poker Industries.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

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