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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Kung Fu Killer

December 21, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Kung Fu Killer

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #580: Kung Fu Killer

Donnie Yen December: Week 2

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never tried to fight six guys at once because, for one, that really sounds like a lot of effort on my part, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and eighty, Donnie Yen December continues with Kung Fu Killer, which hit American DVD in mid-July 2015.

Kung Fu Killer


Kung Fu Killer, also known as Kung Fu Jungle and directed by Teddy Chan, is one of the weirder serial killer movies I’ve seen, mostly because there aren’t that many serial killer movies out there about a serial killer that’s also a martial artist and he’s killing martial artists. I know of one of these kinds of movies, Tiger Claws with Cynthia Rothrock, but that’s the only one I can recall at the moment. Why hasn’t that concept been done more often? Damned if I know. Maybe it’s just too difficult to get multiple martial artists together in one movie?

Anyway, Kung Fu Killer stars Donnie Yen as Hahou Mo, a badass martial artist and police instructor who ends up in prison after killing a guy. While in prison and watching TV (well, the TV was on in the background), Mo overhears a news report about the murder of a prominent martial artist in Hong Kong. Mo then asks to talk to the police because he has information that may be valuable about the martial artist murder. Mo is quickly rebuffed (he’s a prisoner and a criminal, why the hell should anyone listen to him?), but he eventually gets someone to listen to him (and by that I mean he starts a small prison riot) and he gets an audience with cop Luk Yuen-Sum (Charlie Yeung). Mo tells Luk that the killer is a martial artist and that he will attack more martial artists over time, each martial artist representing a different discipline. Mo can’t say precisely which discipline will be attacked next, at least not while still incarcerated. Mo would like Luk to get him out of prison so he can help, in a real deal hands on way, to investigate and figure out who will be the next one attacked. So Luk works her magic and manages to get Mo out of prison for a short period of time to help with the investigation.

Now, while all of that is going on, the killer, Fung Yu-Sau (Baoqiang Wang), continues his killer attacks on various martial artists. We learn via flashbacks that Fung’s wife (or girlfriend. I’m not sure) was ravaged by cancer, and that essentially triggered his need to challenge multiple martial artists in fights to the death. Fung is also partially disabled (he wears a boot that has a bigger heel on it than his other shoe), and that fact helps focus his anger/need to kill.

Even with Mo out of prison and helping the police, Fung’s body count continues to rise. Mo and Fung do have a one on one encounter, but it doesn’t end well for anyone, really. Their encounter also sets into motion information that, when revealed (or, really, figured out by Luk), totally upends Mo’s motivation for wanting to help and ultimately what Fung’s motivation is all about. Will you see it coming? Maybe, maybe not. I know I didn’t see it coming.

And while all of that is going on, Mo tries to reunite with his significant other Sinn Ying (Big Bai, credited under the name Michelle Bai). Sinn Ying is also a martial artist and she has a special sword that she keeps by her side at all times. When she finds out that Mo is out of prison and working with the police on a “special assignment,” she is brought into the investigation, too, in order to keep Mo’s head in the game.

So some stuff happens, more martial artists are killed, things are revealed, and, as you would expect to see in a martial arts movie, the good guy and the bad guy fight one another at the end. Who will win? The cop-turned-prisoner-turned-cop helper or the martial artist serial killer of martial artists?

Kung Fu Killer has plenty of great action set pieces and multiple fights in it (Donnie Yen does the action directing), but I was surprised that there wasn’t more fighting and martial arts mayhem in it. We see Fung fight multiple big deal martial artists (and you know this because the end credits make a big deal out of who is in the movie), but none of their fights are all that memorable. And they’re quick. When Fung eventually fights Mo it doesn’t come off as an ultimate showdown. It’s a longer, more elaborate fight, yes (it happens on a busy street, with cars and trucks and whatnot driving by as they fight. Most of the trucks appear to be CGI, which is fine because the shit they do in the fight is insane and would have been too dangerous to try in “real life”), but even that fight doesn’t come off as big enough. Why isn’t there more to what’s going on?

I mean, every fighter in this movie is awesome. Once you realize someone is a martial artist and they’re going to go one-on-one with Fung there’s the potential for an awesome fight. But that’s all we really get. The potential for a big deal and awesome fight. We never really get that big deal or awesome fight. That’s a problem.

Fung’s ultimate motivation isn’t half as interesting as the movie wants us to believe it is, and that’s likely due to the pacing of the movie. A serial killer movie needs slow moments to build suspense. Kung Fu Killer never slows down, is constantly moving, and, as a result, nothing seems to matter. The movie should be fast paced when it comes to the fights and action, yes, but the moments where we’re not seeing Fung killing someone or where we’re seeing Mo interacting with Luk or Sinn Ying, those scenes should matter emotionally. They just don’t. Everything moves at the same breakneck speed. You can’t do that with a serial killer movie.

And that may be Kung Fu Killer’s biggest problem. It wants to be a kind of serial killer movie, but it doesn’t succeed at that at all. It’s an action movie. That’s what it is. So why try to be something you have no hope of being at all? Am I missing something here?

Perhaps Kung Fu Killer would have been more successful if it hadn’t bothered with the serial killer undertones and had just been an action movie. Eliminate all of the backstory and personal motivation and just make it about a bad guy martial artist that wants to fight other martial artists to the death to see who the best is. Keep it simple, cut it down. Get rid of the police angle, the prison angle, and just make it about the fighting. That’s what everyone in the movie is good at. Fighting. Action. Martial arts.

Donnie Yen is, as usual, cool as hell as Hahou Mo. The actual characterization is a bit off, but Yen makes the most of it and you can’t keep your eyes off of him. He’s always interesting, even when what’s going on around him isn’t all that interesting. And while there isn’t enough meaningful action in the movie, the sequences Yen puts together as the movie’s action director are all reasonably exciting in their own ways. But, again, I just wish they meant something. I don’t blame him for that, though. He can only do what he can. He didn’t direct the whole movie.

Baoqiang Wang does a pretty good job as Fung the martial artist serial killer. He has a sleazy swagger that makes you leery of him, and Wang is obviously a gifted martial artist who can kick ass with the best of them. The movie should have played that up more and allowed him to be full on pure evil. I think that would have played better and I’m sure Wang would have kicked ass doing that.

Charlie Yeung is okay as the lead cop Luk Yuen-Sum. She’s a badass in her own way, sure, as she’s trying to find a serial killer and deal with her bosses and the media and whatnot, but she doesn’t get to anything full on badass until the very end of the movie. Her character should have been more involved in the action.

And Bing Bai does a decent enough job as Sinn Ying, Mo’s significant other. She has actual chemistry with Donnie Yen, and you totally buy them as a couple. Bai also shows that she can kick ass in her one big fight sequence towards the end of the movie. Why didn’t we see more from her in this?

I can’t call Kung Fu Killer a successful movie. It has some nice moments, some cool action scenes, and Donnie Yen shows everyone why he’s a big star, but its mishmash of serial killer movie and martial arts action movie just doesn’t gel well. It’s a nice try, an interesting failure, but it’s not very good. It should have been, though. Kung Fu Killer should have been awesome. It has plenty of elements in it to make that happen. It fails, though. Kung Fu Killer, in the end, just isn’t very good.

Only see Kung Fu Killer if you’re a Donnie Yen completist. Avoid it otherwise.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 10.

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A man covered in blood, a weirdo tape recorder, a guy lighting candles, a fist in slow motion, a swastika (has nothing to do with Nazis), a major traffic backup, off screen Ferrari destruction, serious injuries, a weirdo figurine thing, a prison, a gang of prisoners, TV news report hooey, a full scale prison brawl/riot, metal seat to the face, an almost fist to the face, water puking, a police meeting, more weird tape recorder hooey, art expo hooey, a giant human skeleton display, a big fight, deliberate shoe removal, serious kicking, a guy smoking a pipe, off screen ass kicking, building sign smashing, serious arm breaking, pressure point hooey, serious property destruction, head through a fish tank, a foot chase, face slapping, bag of oranges, public hugging, old video, a flashback, some bullshit about the Ching Dynasty, an apartment raid, sandwich cutting, a kung fu movie on TV in the background, outdoor cooking, a falling motorcycle, arm stabbing, a big hooha sword fight, sword tip breaking, blade to the back, impromptu metal pole attack, box cutter hooey, serious throat slashing, a phone call, attempted SWAT team attack, praying, support beam breaking, strong tying, crabs, motorboat riding, neck breaking, multiple dogs with muzzles for some reason, total SWAT team destruction, door handle breaking, serious sword hooey, kicking up, trapping someone’s leg under a piece of wood, a serious arm wound, serious cop killing, boat stealing, a boat chase, sharp pendant to the throat, CGI boat toppling, a hidden wall message, a big fight in the middle of a busy road, face scratching, traffic, mega knuckle punch, mega punch to the face, fighting under multiple moving tractor trailers, body dragging, and a story that wraps itself up.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Donnie Yen, Donnie Yen covered in blood, a police forensics team, Donnie Yen in prison, Donnie Yen trying to get a guy to make a fist, Donnie Yen causing a prison riot, Donnie Yen beating up like twenty guys, a gigantic human skeleton display, deliberate show removal, Donnie Yen reading in his jail cell, a fast action montage of a bridge, people riding in a van that appears to have a CGI background, jumping from roof to roof, a kids kung fu class, Donnie Yen praying, a strong bracelet, Donnie Yen wearing a shirt with the number 81 on it, “Don’t touch anything,” natural skin thickening, a sword, a desk name plate that has two languages on it, a stupid question during a police press conference, steam bath hooey, phone call tracing, Drunken Master on TV, sea salt, multiple empty cups of noodles, Donnie Yen eating, “Martial arts is meant to kill,” a bamboo pole truck, fighting under multiple moving tractor trailers, and a story that wraps itself up.

Best lines: “I killed someone,” “Move, you old bastard,” “I know what he’s thinking,” “Sit down! Do it!,” “I am here to fight you today. To fight you to the death,” “Hey, look! His eyes aren’t shut!,” “It’s martial arts business! You won’t be able to close the case without us!,” “Just give it up, madam. Wherever she goes the sword goes,” “The guy holding the ladle is your weapons expert?,” “It’s not your fight. Go,” “I am here to challenge you,” “You should thank me for getting you out,” “Madam, I’m tired. Can I go see Sinn Ying?,” “Big guy. Put that down,” “You know, the day you become famous is the day you become alone,” “When you die it will only make him stronger,” “Your skills are just for show. Real martial arts is for killing,” “Stop him before he leaves the typhoon shelter!,” “I don’t know, maybe this is compensation,” “Running you over is too easy. I am here to kill you,” and “Martial arts is meant to kill!”

Rating: 6.0/10.0




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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Kung Fu Killer

Donnie Yen– Hahou Mo
Baoqiang Wang– Fung Yu-Sau
Charlie Yeung– Luk Yu-Sum
Bing Bai– Sinn Ying (as Michelle Bai)
Alex Fong– Chief Inspector Lam

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Teddy Chan
Screenplay by Ho-Leung Lau and Tin Shu Mak, based on an original story by Teddy Chan and Ho-Leung Lau

Distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment

Not Rated
Runtime– 100 minutes

Buy it here