Kung Fu Killer (Well Go USA Entertainment, NR)

Kung-Fu-Killer 75Despite being disappointed to find that Donnie Yen wasn’t playing the bad guy here, I found Kung Fu Killer to be a good time. 

 

 

 

 

Kung-Fu-Killer 500

Here’s another one of those movies where a man in prison strikes a deal with the cops to use their specific abilities to catch someone dangerous and on the loose. Of course the most celebrated movie of this type is The Silence of the Lambs, and the most recent example is maybe Blackhat, from a few months ago. In Teddy Chan’s Kung Fu Killer, the man in prison is Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen, of the Ip Man movies), a martial arts master who, three years prior to the events of the movie, accidentally killed someone, and remorsefully turned himself in over it. He’s been a model inmate in prison, and comes of some use to the cops when another martial arts master starts murdering, uh, still other martial arts masters. Given Hahou’s knowledge of martial arts and its masters, and being a master himself, puts him in a unique position—he can point the cops toward likely next targets for the killer; he understands the killer’s impulses, logic, and technique more clearly; and one has to assume that the killer, who is revealed early on to be a man named Fung Yu-Sau (Wang Baoqiang), will come after Hahou sooner or later (well, at the end of the movie, anyway).

Despite being disappointed to find that Donnie Yen wasn’t playing the bad guy here, I found Kung Fu Killer to be a good time.  One thing that it gets right early on is that it plants the most logic-stretching detail early and in an important slot. Fung Yu-Sau is a cripple—one of his legs is significantly shorter than the other—and yet he’s able to best all of these kung fu masters, outrun fit people, jump from rooftop to rooftop, etc. So, when inevitably over the top actions arise, or there are strange leaps in logic in terms of character motivation, they tend to slide right off of you, because if you can believe that a man who can’t walk without a limp can best the most perfect examples of kung fu, well, you’ll be able to believe just about anything.

Not all of the film’s fight scenes really stand out from your typical martial arts movie, but it does have some pretty good ones; a favorite of mine comes early in the movie, where Fung approaches a master who is working on a giant-sized human skeleton, which they proceed to do battle on and around. I’m not sure there’s anything in here to justify the midnight-exclusive release the film is getting in St. Louis, as that slot often implies a level of extremity not to be witnessed here, but still, I’m happy to have the opportunity to see a movie like this theatrically. | Pete Timmermann

Kung Fu Killer is showing at midnight on May 29 and 30 at the Tivoli in University City. For more information, visit the Tivoli’s website.

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