Firmly now established as one of the great Hong Kong action stars alongside names like Jackie Chan and Jet Li, Donnie Yen is back with his latest action film Kung Fu Killer. You may have seen him in smaller roles Hollywood films such as Blade II and Shanghai Knights or the hit Hero but it was roles in Ip Man and Ip Man 2 that elevated him to a major Hong Kong star. Yen has also been announced as the star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II: The Green Legend, the sequel to the 2000 the worldwide smash hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that will be released on both Netflix and IMAX cinemas in August.
In Kung Fu Killer a vicious killer named Fung (Wang Bao-qiang) goes around Hong Kong challenging and killing top martial arts masters of different styles and leaving a secret weapon called the Moonshadow as his calling card. Yen plays an imprisoned convict and kung fu expert named Hahou Mo (Ha) who accidentally killed a man while working as a martial arts instructor. When Ha hears of the killings he offers to help the police catch the killer in return for his freedom. With Ha’s help, the police realise from the chronological order of the victims that the killer is targeting his victims, all top masters in their respective martial arts style, and following a martial code of training. After a close encounter with Fung, Ha suddenly disappears and the police begin to suspect that the two are accomplices and Fung was the bait to help spring Ha from jail. In fact, Ha has actually gone back to his home town to find out more about the mysterious calling card in hopes of discovering the killer.
Though set in modern day Hong Kong, the plot of Kung Fu Killer is a throwback to the 1970’s/1980’s Kung Fu films with an over the top villain character challenging the best martial arts masters with the aim to be the greatest. This is the basic premise of the film and for me it was also the main issue I had watching it. The plot is thin and though these classic plots worked back then, in a modern film were we tend to expect more storyline. Here the plot is little more than a weak link to fill the gaps between the fight scenes and action set pieces. This is particularly displayed in flashbacks showing Fung’s sick and dying wife that never convinced me that her illness is motivation for his action.
The fight scenes are where the film picks up and after a rather slower pace first half of the film, the second half steps up the pace as Ha and the police get closer to catching up with Fung. The action come more frequently leading up to the climax of the film that’s see’s Hahou Mo fight Fung Yu-Sau in a high action, if rather over the top battle, across Hong Kong’s busy street. The two men engage in the hand to hand combat which is intertwined with the added danger of upcoming traffic. As you can expect from a Donnie Yen film the fight choreography is solid, showcasing the best of Wing Chun along with some high wire stunts.
Overall Kung Fu Killer is a film of two halves but with a thin plot, slow early pace and at times over the top action. Sadly it doesn’t match some of Donnie Yen’s earlier films.
GS Rating: 2.5/5
GS Reviewer: Soulfinger
Kung Fu Killer comes to cinemas on 20th February, and arrives on Blu-ray and DVD from 23rd February, 2015, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.