Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Fulltime Killer

Directorial and screenwriting talent aside, Johnny To and Ka-Fai Wai must be the Asian equivalents of Quentin Tarantino - men that spent the greater part of their formative years watching rented copies of Western action movies! In a sense then Fulltime Killer is the oriental Kill Bill - a film that primarily cares about showing off its influences. Its characters and action sequences openly refer to movies like Leon and El Mariachi. Of the latter, Andy Lau's showman-hitman Tok observes "not a very good movie, but I liked its style". And that's roughly how I felt about this one.

The trailer involves 30 seconds of gunshots and explosions. The other 100 minutes you get to see when you have paid for your ticket scratch a story on the endless surface of this movie - about the adolesecent mentality of epileptic Chinese gunman Tok and his persistent attempts to kick-start a deadly rivalry with jaded Japanese assassin, "O".

The stunning Kelly Lin plays the video store worker that would like to be the love interest of one or both of these killers. There's a backstory involving an Interpol quest to arrest "O" that never quite breaks through, and once most of his colleagues have ended up as collateral damage, Hong Kong copper Lee seamlessly tranforms himself into a washed-up hobo novelist in search of the end of the story.

Talking of El Mariachi I re-visited the last (hopefully) in the series this week. Once Upon a Time in Mexico looks like it wants to be a fresh, latino take on a familiar cinematic archetype but ends up a fiesta of camp firefights packed with a throng of flat stereotypes. General Marquez is the worst - he doesn't even get one good line of dialogue. Johnny Depp's Agent Sands is at the other end of the scale. Without his scene-stealing performance, the whole thing would have been truly awful. The Day of the Dead arrives in time for the 'climax', but on the wrong date - it's November 1st not 2nd. Looking back, I had more time for this film when I saw it in the cinema. It's entertaining enough I suppose. It's clear however, that as the Mariachi budgets grew Robert Rodriguez lost sight of his original gem of an idea - that one of the most familiar and lowly characters of Mexican streetlife could find himself transformed into a mythic gunman.

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