'Kung Fu Killer': Film Review

Kung Fu Killer Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment

Kung Fu Killer Still - H 2015

Thrillingly staged fight sequences enliven this Hong Kong action movie 

Donnie Yen stars in Teddy Chan's action movie about a kung fu instructor recruited to track down a serial killer targeting martial arts masters.

Teddy Chen's combination police procedural and kick-ass action film provides a sturdy vehicle for longtime Hong Kong star Donnie Yen (Ip Man), who at age 51 proves he's still in good enough shape to deliver all the right moves. Featuring a slew of Hong Kong movie veterans in cameo roles and an extended tribute montage during the end credits, Kung Fu Killer will surely please genre aficionados even if it's unlikely to repeat the crossover success of such martial arts epics as The Raid and its sequel.

The charismatic Yen, who also served as the film's "action director," plays the central role of Hahou Mo, a former kung fu instructor imprisoned for accidentally killing one of his opponents. He's sprung from jail to help a police unit led by Detective Luk (Charlie Young) track down a deranged, club-footed serial killer who's been dispatching various martial arts grandmasters, each one of them in the exact fighting style in which they specialized.

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The rudimentary storyline mainly serves, of course, as an excuse for a series of elaborately staged fight sequences taking place in such exotic settings as a tattoo parlor, a film set and, most baroquely, atop a giant replica of a human skeleton. It all culminates with a lavishly staged climactic set piece featuring Hahou and the villain (an entertainingly over-the-top Wang Baoqiang) duking it out in the middle of a busy highway, barely dodging massive tractor trailers along the way.  

Filmed with the sort of fluid camerawork and kineticism that seems to largely elude its American counterparts, the film (released as Hong Kong Jungle in its native country due to Chinese censorship restrictions) overcomes its formulaic elements with its superlatively choreographed fight scenes, which are only occasionally augmented by special effects. The sort of film that would be best appreciated in the '70s-era grindhouses that sadly no longer exist, Kung Fu Killer is delicious popcorn fare.

Production companies: Emperor Motion Pictures, Heart & Soul Production and Sun Entertainment Culture in association with Beijing Silver Moon Productions
Cast: Donnie Yen, Wang Baoqiang, Charlie Young, Michelle Bai, Christie Chen, Deep Ng
Director: Teddy Chen
Screenwriters: Lau Ho-leung, Mak Tin-shu
Producers: Albert Lee, Catherine Hun, Alex Dong, Song Ning
Executive producers: Albert Yeung, Alvin Chau, Yan Xiaoming
Director of photography: Horace Wong
Production designer: Ken Mak
Editors: Cheung Ka-fai, Derek Hui
Costume designer: Dora Ng
Composer: Peter Kam

Not rated, 100 minutes