As a rabid martial arts film nerd, I’m not easily impressed. It’s one of those things where if you’ve seen one film, you’ve seen them all. So a movie has to really step outside of the box to garner my attention.
The premise of Donnie Yen’s latest action flick, Kung Fu Killer directed by Teddy Chen, did exactly that in grand fashion.
In Kung Fu Killer, Yen is Hahou Mo, a martial arts expert and police self-defense instructor who is incarcerated for involuntary manslaughter during a fight with an opponent. Three years later, a vicious killer — played by Wang Baoqiang — emerges and starts killing retired martial arts masters that Hahou knows. With his own personal agenda, Hahou reveals he knows the killer’s next intended victims and offers to aid Inspector Luk Yuen-Sum — played by Charlie Young — in capturing the killer with his martial arts skills and knowledge in exchange for his freedom.
In terms of reviewing the technical aspects and elements (such as pacing, acting, plot, etc.), Kung Fu Killer proved to be a bit of a challenge. Not because it’s a bad film — because it’s not by any means. In fact, it probably would’ve been easier to review if it had been a flop.
The film itself is pretty standard and there’s very little to differentiate it from countless other action flicks. To the movie’s credit however, it’s all well executed. The storyline manages to avoid major tropes, and the fight sequences are always engaging and don’t feel repetitive. The color schemes and the cinematography in the flashback sequences are especially noteworthy.
All of that said, Kung Fu Killer is more than the sum of its parts, and it is actually the spirit of the Yen project that makes the movie a classic.
The astute viewer will note more than a few martial arts film legends making cameos in this film: Kirk Wong, Bey Logan, Teddy Chan, among many others. The film itself is a meta celebration of the men and women who have played a part in the legacy of the Hong Kong martial arts cinema. That alone makes this movie a gem and one worth checking out in theaters everywhere on April 24. B-