Fulltime Killer

Johnnie To

Fulltime Killer (全職殺手)
Made in: Hong Kong (mostly)
Language: Cantonese, Japanese, Mandarin, and some bad English
Director: Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai
Starring: Takashi Sorimachi, Andy Lau, Kelly Lin, Simon Yam, Cherrie Ying
Year: 2001

Synopsis: In Asia's criminal underworld, the best hitman around is a mysterious character known only as "O" (Takashi Sorimachi). Living a life of solitude, the stoic O keeps a low profile, asks no questions, leaves no trace, and always gets the job done.

When he's not killing people O is actually a pretty nice guy, and has a secret crush on his unassuming housekeeper Chin (Kelly Yin).

But a new hitman named Tok (Andy Lau) soon blasts his way into the picture. A reckless, flamboyant, and cheerful sociopath, Tok becomes involved with Chin and passes himself off as an exciting bad boy that girls like to spank. The relationship is amusing to Chin at first, but it's mostly a ploy. Through her, Tok plans to get close enough to O, eliminate him, then claim the title of Best Hitman Ever.

But the little game between O and Tok gets complicated when two interpol agents (played by Simon Yam and Cherrie Ying) start tracking them down by following the trail of bodies.

The Good: Fulltime Killer is a stylish, comic book-like story that's a little over-the-top but very engaging. Many of the small twists and turns are clever, and the film takes the time to weave in subtleties that add a touch of psychological depth.

Johnnie To and Ka-Fai Wai give this thriller a lot of personality, and it's a slick, fast-paced movie with a cult/indie-edge to it. Loosely following elements from the Antonio Banderas/Sylvester Stallone travesty known as Assassins, Fulltime Killer even makes a brief reference to that other movie but greatly surpasses it in terms of action and story development.

Takashi Sorimachi plays a likeable character, but Andy Lau is the show-stealer here. He's a charismatic psycho whose nuttiness doesn't become self-conscious and cheesy (which tends to happen in many Hong Kong films). And over the course of the movie, you'll eagerly anticipate what he'll come up with next even if it's utterly implausible.

The Bad: Even though this film isn't meant to be taken too seriously, it'll be hard to suspend your disbelief during many of the shootouts. Kelly Lin's character also does some pretty dumb things (like agreeing to date a guy who wears a creepy Bill Clinton mask).

Who would like this movie: This movie's for you if you're an enthusiastic action movie fan who's familiar with Hong Kong shoot-em-ups. Also, if you like foreign languages (especially Asian ones), you'll find the cross-cultural elements in this story pretty interesting.

The cult/indie look of Fulltime Killer will definitely appeal to pop-culture junkies, and it may even inspire some of you to buy a pair of leather pants. But I would advise against that last part - just rent the movie and tell your friends how cool it was.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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