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  Kung Fu Killer The Dreaded Donnie
Year: 2014
Director: Teddy Chan
Stars: Donnie Yen, Charlie Yeung, Wang Baoqiang, Michelle Bai, Deep Ng, Alex Fong, Yu Kang, Yu Xing, Louis Fang, David Chiang, Tsui Siu Ming, Christie Chen, Jessica Wong Ka-Wai, Cheung Man Kit, Rock Ji, Andrew Lau, Bruce Law, Kirk Wong, Bey Logan, Raymond Chow
Genre: Action, Thriller, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen) is in prison, having served three years of his five year sentence for accidentally killing an opponent while in martial arts combat. He used to run his own school, and proudly aspired to be the greatest fighter around, but his pursuit of this goal left him dead inside, only good for beating people up and he paid the price when he turned killer, no matter how unintentional that was. But what if there was somebody out there who had fewer qualms about executing other combatants with kung fu? And had in fact already murdered a past master in one on one, hand to hand brawling, plus not only that but he planned to take it further, proving himself to be king since there were no other pretenders left alive?

Kung Fu Killer, also known as Yi ge ren de wu lin or previously, Kung Fu Jungle (an urban jungle, one supposes) was a Donnie Yen vehicle, which meant you pretty much knew what you were in for: blistering martial arts sequences interspersed with rather flatter dramatic scenes for purposes of emotional depth, no matter that nobody was watching one of his movies for those, they wanted to see him breaking heads and kicking ass. Nevertheless he persisted, and indeed there were fights where he did not participate at all, allowing others to battle the villainous Fung Yu-Sau, played by an old ally in his moviemaking Wang Baoqiang. But it was Donnie we wanted to see, good as those parts were.

Mo decides he can help the police investigation because he knows the masters who are being targeted, and feels he may be on the hitlist, so the chief officer Detective Luk Yuen-Sum (Charlie Yeung) allows him to be temporarily released to assist - though not before he has a massive one against twenty scrap in the prison just in case we were in any doubt Donnie had what it takes, even at his advancing age, remarkably well-preserved as he was. Once out on this sort of parole, he sets about, no, not only tracking down Fung, but hooking up with his old girlfriend (Michelle Bai, who you could easily mistake for playing his daughter) to make amends for his recklessness that ruined their relationship.

All very sweet, but we wanted the thwack of fist on flesh, didn't we? Mo catches up with Fung in a rooftop chase, helped along with generous amounts of computer effects that appeared to have well and truly dominated the Hong Kong action formula now we were well into the twenty-first century, for better or worse. Better because there was less chance of all those horrendous accidents you'd see in compilations at the end of Jackie Chan movies, and worse because, well, there was a thrill in knowing these guys were flinging themselves around for real with no thought of their personal safety, as selfish as that thrill was for the audience. It also lent a somewhat cartoonish appearance to what in this case was trying to be a gritty thriller.

A gritty serial killer thriller, let's not forget, though director Teddy Chan was not exactly David Fincher, and nor was he trying to be (much). Lifting Kung Fu Killer was a strain of philosophy that told us it was all very well training to be the best fighter on the planet, but if that forced you to neglect your more spiritual side, the relationships that made life worth living and generally turned you into a not so nice guy, then take a step back and think, consider that the ultimate display of that drive to pure aggression would be to commit murder, and that's not a terrific place to be. Nevertheless, in a have its cake and eat it too manner we were still treated to a final skirmish that stretched out between Yen and Wang for almost twenty minutes, in a busy highway to boot, dodging traffic and occasionally, er, not dodging it very well. That Fung had a built up shoe to administer his powerful kicks was a quirk that might have looked as if they were demonising a man who had been twisted by unfortunate circumstances and disability, but in effect just added to the madness in a fair effort. Music by Peter Kam, and spot the cameos, HK fans.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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