Full Time Killer
review by Carrie Gorringe, 21 September 2001

26th Toronto International Film Festival

The opening sequence of Jonnie To and Wai Ka Fai's latest film, Full Time Killer, is a classic set-piece for establishing action: a lean young man, clad in slick black leather, trench coat swirling around him, enters a train station, selects a target, coolly lifts his revolver, kills the victim, turns around and makes his getaway in a swift but relaxed manner, indifferent to the fact that he hasn't even bothered to conceal his identity. Tok (Andy Lau), is a hit man on the rise, renowned for his reckless and extravagant gestures (see above), all of which are borrowed liberally from his favorite action films. His other obsession revolves around O (Takashi Sorimachi), a hit man whose retiring nature are entirely at odds with his profession; his main interest is collecting Snoopy figurines from each of the countries that he has "visited." O is at the top of his game, the one with the highest fees, and Tok is eager to depose him as soon as possible, although his motivations may not be entirely financial. There's also an Interpol Police Inspector (Simon Yam), who wants to arrest both of them. A showdown between Tok and O is inevitable, after one of them discovers the common link between them that the other has known from the first frame. 

Directors To and Wai (the latter also co-wrote the screenplay), borrow liberally from the common elements between American gangster and western films, as do many Hong Kong filmmakers. There are countless films that revolve around the concept of the established gunfighter, tired of living up to his professional reputation, but who must face a young upstart who won't allow him to walk away (the most typical being Henry King's 1951 classic, The Gunfighter, in which Gregory Peck is endlessly harassed by Stephen MacNally). Yet, Killer also addresses the contemporary issues now influencing organized crime in Hong Kong. The film's title is the first clue that not all is as it used to be; like the Italian Mafia's loss of influence and power to their Russian counterparts, the old-style Hong Kong gangsters and their codes of honor have been overthrown by more ambitious and ruthless types, such as the Chinese Triads, who specialize in greater and more indiscriminate forms of violence. O and Tok are the obvious symbolic stand-ins for this shift, and they, like other workers, have now fallen prey to the mob equivalent of "restructuring"(without the severance pay). There is no sense of loyalty or identity, and no protection, however limited it might have been in the past; they have become contractors in both the definition of their employment and the conditions under which they work. The sequences of exquisitely choreographed violence in Full Time Killer cannot even compare to the level of sadism in Ichi the Killer; the staccato-like editing style, when coupled with the insouciant slinging around of black witticisms by the protagonists (antagonists?) renders the violence more cartoon-like in sensibility; just like Wile E. Coyote, the two protagonists will get up again to undergo more madness in the next scene. The directors keep this madness going until the very last minute, until a pull-all-the-stops-out finale caps this funny, intentional and otherwise, "Chop Socky" film.

Click on the titles below to read the reviews.


Directed by:
Johnny To
Ka-Fai Wai

Andy Lau
Takashi Sorimachi
Kelly Lin
Suet Lam
Teddy Lin
Simon Yam
Cherrie Ying

Written by:
Ping Ho Cheung
Joey O'Bryan
Ka-Fai Wai

NR - Not Rated.
This film has not
been rated.







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