Kung Fu Killer

Kung Fu Killer (一個人的武林)
Made in: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin
Director: Teddy Chen
Starring: Donnie Yen, Wang Baoqiang, Charlie Yeung, Michelle Bai
Year: 2014

Synopsis: Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen) is a martial arts expert and police hand-to-hand combat instructor. But after accidentally killing an opponent in a duel, he turns himself in to police and is convicted of involuntary manslaughter. While behind bars, he quietly serves out his time as a model inmate.

Three years later, a brutal killer named Fung Yu-Sau (Wang Baoqiang) appears in Hong Kong, and begins murdering other retired martial arts masters. The victims each had specialties in different forms of kung fu, and were all acquaintances of Hahou. Believing that he knows when Fung Yu-Sau will strike next, Hahou is temporarily released from prison to aid police inspector Luk Yuen-Sum (Charlie Young) to help solve the case.

Soon, it becomes clear that Fun Yu-Sau’s motives have a much more personal connection to Hahou, making a massive one-on-one showdown inevitable.

The Good: Kung Fu Killer (aka Kung Fu Jungle) has a solid premise, and the action choreography doesn’t disappoint. Donnie Yen and Wang Baoqiang engage in plenty of exciting action, and a lot of the set pieces are pretty creative.

Lots of cameos from classic Hong Kong action directors and actors, which will be amusing for those familiar with Asian cinema.

The production values are solid, and the climactic fight is pretty exciting. It’s good to see that Hong Kong action movies still carry on a tradition of strong fight/stunt choreography.

The Bad: Although the plot line is well thought-out, the movie does suffer a bit from mediocre execution. The acting is pretty stilted, and there isn’t much effort made to help us emotionally connect with the characters. Donnie Yen may be an amazing martial artist, but throughout the whole movie his facial expressions only convey the following three thoughts:

- I’m going to kick someone’s ass
- I’m really going to kick someone’s ass
- I’m really, really going to kick someone’s ass

Who would like this movie: Kung Fu Killer is clearly for fans Donnie Yen and of the martial arts genre in general. The cameos should be pretty fun for those knowledgable with Hong Kong cinema, but will be lost on most others. 

It’s certainly exciting, but the lack of emotional range among the characters is a clear hindrance. Also, occasionally clumsy pacing keep this action movie from being as fun as it could have been. If you’re familiar with the story structure of martial arts movies, much of this one will be predictable. Overall, it’s entertaining if you’re looking for a little escape.

2 and 1/2 stars out of 4

Review written by: Joe Yang

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