Directed by Johnny To & Ka-Fai Wai
Produced by Andy Lau, Johnny To & Ka-Fai Wai
Written by Ka-Fai Wai & Joey O'Bryan
Director of Photograpy Siu-keung Cheng
Music by Guy Zerafa
Cast: Andy Lau, Takashi Sorimachi, Simon Yam & Kelly Lin

2001/100 mins/Color/5.1 DD
1.85:1 anamorphic/Chinese/Hong Kong/NTSC Region 1

Review from the Lions Gate Home Entertainment Disc

Following the political changes which took place in Hong Kong in 1997, many believed that the city's famed film industry would crumble, especially given the fact that many high-profile players left for the United States. Six years later, Hong Kong's film industry may not be the golden jewel that it once was, but great films, such as FULLTIME KILLER, are still being produced there.

FULLTIME KILLER tells the story of two assassins. O (Takashi Sorimachi) is the top hit-man in the Far East, and he is well-known for his professionalism. He lives a quiet existence, and has a young woman named Chin (Kelly Lin) clean the apartment which he uses as a false address. In contrast, Tok (Andy Lau) is a very loud and conspicuous assassin, who longs to take the crown from O. Tok's killings are never small-time affairs and he is making a name for himself in the crime world. Despite this reputation, Tok doesn't get the respect he feels he deserves. So, he decides to infiltrate O's life from within, by befriending Chin. This creates a deadly triangle between the shy O, the brash Tok, and the confused Chin -- a triangle that all three won't survive. Meanwhile, two Interpol agents, Lee (Simon Yam) and Gigi (Cherrie Ying) are hot on the trail of both killers.

Going into FULLTIME KILLER, I expected a good action film, as that's what I typically find with movies of this type from Hong Kong. But, what I got was much more than that. Surrounding the well-done action sequences is a deep and engrossing story which took me totally by surprise. Based on a novel by Ho Cheung Ping, the film takes its time in exploring the lives of the three main characters. Far from being shallow stereotypes, O, Tok, and Chin slowly come to life, and we learn things about them that become more crucial as the film goes on. Directors Johhny To (THE HEROIC TRIO) and Ka-Fai Wai (THE PEACE HOTEL) have done a great job of constructing the film. At first FULLTIME KILLER can come across as very confusing, but as the pieces fall into place, the story goes into an unexpected direction, culminating in a great finale (that I didn't see coming...I'm still kicking myself over that one). But, I don't want to make FULLTIME KILLER sound like a total art film, because it isn't. There are several great action setpieces here. And while they don't match the artistry of John Woo, they are well-done, especially a shoot-out which starts in a building and then spreads into the streets. In the last decade, more and more people have discovered the appeal of Hong Kong action films, and they typically try to include others in this excitement. But, some are turned off by the over-the-top violence in these films. FULLTIME KILLER is a great introduction to the world of Hong Kong cinema, as it contains the trademark action and a great story as well.

Lions Gate Entertainment has been nice enough to bring FULLTIME KILLER to the United States, however the DVD is a bit of a disappointment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image on this DVD doesn't look very good. While the picture is sharp, there is noticeable amount of grain on the image at all times. The colors are slightly faded, and the film has an overall washed out look. The worst part are the defects from the source material. The film is littered with spots and specs, and there is even a hair at one point (!). I'm sure that Lions Gate used the best print that they could find, but the image leaves much to be desired. The DVD does fare better in the audio department. The primary audio track is a Cantonese Dolby Digitlal 5.1 mix. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The use of surround sound effects and bass is liberal and sounds great during the action scenes. The only drawback to the audio is that the characters suddenly begin speaking English at times, and it can be difficult to make out what the actors are saying.

The DVD does contain some nice extras. "The Making of FULLTIME KILLER" is a 25-minute featurette which was clearly made as an advertisement, as the actors ask the viewer to check out the film in theaters. This segment offers interviews with all of the principal actors and has some nice behind-the-scenes footage. Speaking of which, there is an additional 23-minutes of behind-the-scenes footage which shows a great deal of on-set action, but has no subtitles. The trailer for FULLTIME KILLER is presented here (letterboxed at 1.85:1) and there are bios for the main cast members.





This Film Features:

Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©