BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Oct 19th, 2004 •

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(Tai Seng Video Marketing) 2001
100 minutes / Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Johnnie To does it again with the raucous, yet elegant FULLTIME KILLER, a heroic bloodshed gangster pic that refuses to play it straight.

Tok (Andy Lau), a cheap ‘Gun-For-Hire’, wants to break into the big league by defeating No. One assassin, ‘O’ (Takashi Sorimachi). They engage in a love triangle with ‘O’s maid and blow away many people before coming to a resolution.

Some directors just know how to gamble, and Johnnie To’s one of them. Teamed with Wai Ka Fai, the two literally ‘Flip the Script’ with FULLTIME KILLER in one sense: that only about half the film, if not less, is spoken in Cantonese, and in another sense: by jumping out of the narrative about eighty minutes into the film and approaching the story from the perspective of one of the peripheral characters. Sort of a Wong Kar Wai trick, but taken less seriously.

FULLTIME KILLER is set in an expansive Asian world of many western influences and workers living outside their homelands. Our protagonists shoot their way through Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Korea, Macau and, finally, Hong Kong, with Andy Lau dropping references to all his favorite popular culture gangster role models while Sorimachi picks up miniature ‘Snoopy’ dolls from each region in which he kills someone. The characters are mostly bilingual, often speaking to each other in English for lack of a common language, and there is a sense amongst the protagonists of cultural ambiguity, with each looking to the other for some sort of understanding. At one point, regarding his knowledge of the Japanese language, Lau says to Sorimachi, “Took me five years. So I could talk to you. Turns out you don’t like talking. How ironic!” Certainly it is a more diverse Underworld than that of the 1990’s – though the angst and envy remain the same despite cultural differences; our heros are still alienated loners, the cops still admire the criminals – FULLTIME KILLER seems to be the product of a newer, more optimistic multi-cultural conscience than we’re used to seeing.

It’s a strong performance piece for all, with Lau doing a particularly over the top, ‘Type-A’ personality killer (which is really a sight to behold), and stylistically FULLTIME KILLER is very adept, but what makes it great is the chaos, on every level. From start to finish, there’s no second guessing what To and Wai are going to do. The quality of ideas used to connect and complete the story feel very much of that ‘writing by the seat of your pants’ style, yet, at the end, it proves to have been ‘perfect’. At a couple of points, Simon Yam seems to be speaking more on the part of the screenwriter than speaking in character. “A book without an ending…” he says, “I’m writing a book without an ending.” – I truly believe Wai ka Fai and co-screenwriter Joey O’Bryan must have felt that way at some point during conception.

The supplemental section is great, both a ‘behind the scenes’ videography of the more impressive action sequences, and a ‘making of’ featurette – too bad they weren’t subtitled. Still, worth watching for a number of moments including ‘before and after’ footage of Andy Lau doing the stunt where he’s sandwiched between a moving train and the subway platform – chilling in its deadly simplicity.

Audio quality and image are good. Beautiful packaging.

DVD Features:
Behind the Scenes ‘Making of’ featurette
(Chinese subtitles only) English, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese subtitles.
Theatrical trailer.

Directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai

Andy Lau, Takashi Sorimachi, Simon Yam, Kelly Lin

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