HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Kung Fu Killer
HTS Overall Score:80
Everyone who reads my reviews knows that I have really bad weakness for Asian cinema. Especially Hong Kong martial arts films. I grew up watching old Shaw brothers films on the WB every Saturday, as well as owning copious amounts of Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Bruce Lee, and Jean Claude Van Damme (yes I know he’s not Hong Kong, but I had to give him honorable mention) films on VSH, then DVD and now Blu-ray. Nothing gets me more excited than watching one of the great martial arts masters on screen beating the living tar out of each with a tasty mixture of wire work. When I heard of “Kung Fu Killer” (originally titled “Kung Fu Jungle”) I couldn’t wait. By all accounts from overseas, it was a nice throwback to the olden days when Hong Kong martial arts movies dominated the screen. Donnie Yen is one of the last remaining charismatic action stars in Hong Kong who ACTUALLY practices martial arts. Most of them these days are usually pop stars who’ve been athletically trained and choreographed (like Nicholas Tse or Rain) while the real practitioners have been dwindling from sight (minus a goodly amount of stunt men or semi decent action stars who just don’t have the chops to be a STAR). Eager to see if this would wow me like the olden days, or just send me disappointed from the room after watching, I popped in this review disc and let her rip.
Donnie Yen plays Hahou Ma, a legendary martial arts teacher who was sent to prison for accidentally killing an opponent in an inter studio fight. Even though he killed the guy, Ma isn’t really a bad guy. He’s a model prisoner, a kind hearted man and was devastated by the accidental manslaughter he performed. Living 3 years of his 5 year sentence, he is brought out back into the open when a serial killer who only targets martial arts masters goes on a rampage. Realizing that he thinks like the killer does, as a lifelong practitioner, Ma begs beautiful police detective Luk Yeun-Sum (Charlie Yeung) to let him out so that he can help, but the police really have no time for a convicted killer who’s probably yanking their chain. Giving the detectives a list of names, one of whom will be murdered next by his assumptions, they leave, only to return the next day after one of Ma’s list actually ends up murdered.
Set on the loose, Ma and detective Yeun-Sum work together to track down the killer. It seems that he is targeting his victims based upon the different styles of Kung Fu out there. His first victim was a master a Chinese boxing, the second a kicking master, and the third a student of grappling. Seeing the pattern, Ma searches out the best of the best in these categories only to find them all dead. They catch a break when the killer leaves some of his blood at the crime scene where a weapons master is killed, and soon they’re hot on his heels. Things start to get really interesting as the tale unfolds at this point. The Killer is soon discovered out, and even though he’s on the run, his backstory starts to make sense. Living with a wife dying of cancer, he practiced martial arts religiously, until he got into his grief stricken head that the only purpose of martial arts was for killing. Hunting down the best of the best, he is leading up to the one man who could possibly beat him. The true BEST of the best. Ma himself.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50073[/img]“Kung Fu Killer” was easily one of my most anticipated movies from Well Go USA, as I have been longing for a good Hong Kong martial arts movie to come out for quite some time. Thankfully Donnie Yen didn’t disappoint as I had an absolute blast with the movie. It’s not perfect, and has some pacing flaws that could have been helped with a little bit of editing, but overall it was a load of fun as we got to see Donnie Yen, Baoqing Wang and the countless other martial artists duke it out for almost an hour and forty minutes. The action was hard hitting and the choreography excellent. Donnie Yen is over 50 years old and STILL can fight like a man 15 years his junior! Baoqing Wang really surprised me too, as his skill certainly surprised me. My only real complaints with the fights were that they seemed kind of short and utilized a few too many cuts for my tastes. When talented martial artists are on screen I love the use of long shots that really accentuate the skill of the fighter as you can see ALL of his moves. The fighting and hard hitting moves were all old school, but some of the quicker camera cuts makes it feel more like the modern pacing in fights. Usually this is used to cover up the fact that the action star isn’t as skilled as you would hope for, but in this case it’s not the issue, so the use of some quicker camera cuts is a bit puzzling. Now, the cuts weren’t wild and frenetic like many of the movies we see today, and you really get to see a lot of great moves (unlike movies like the “Taken” series or “Expendables”), but the use of less cuts would have really enhanced the product a bit more.
The concept behind “Kung Fu Killer” was a great one. A martial arts master in prison is set out to hunt someone just like him. Kind of the whole “To Catch a Thief” theory, just between fighters. The only problem with the whole thing (and it’s not a huge problem, just one that brings it down from a 4.5/5 to a 4/5 rating) was that some of the extraneous plot points were a bit slow. The action scenes were just plain awesome, but the moments BETWEEN the action scenes were a bit sluggish. Once we found out WHO the killer was, the whole backstory about his wife, and his torture of watching her slowly die just felt a bit stilted and slowed the pace down. By the hour point I felt like they could have gone for a straight shot to the finish, but they utilized a bit too many background plot devices for my taste. I still really REALLY enjoyed the movie though, and the last fight scene between Ma and the killer was worth every second of waiting (despite some dodgy CGI during the film).
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50081[/img]“Kung Fu Killer” gets a very nice 1080p encode from Well Go USA that really only has a few problems. Colors are lush and vibrant, with a mix of flat grey, blue and yellow grading techniques depending on the scene. Saturation is excellent, except for some of those grey moments where it looks a tad flat. Bright outdoor sequences look amazing, with great contrast levels and some incredible detail. Darker pieces of the movie show a little bit of film grain and sometimes some light banding. Shot digitally the clarity of the image is amazing for the most part, but I noticed some light aliasing and a touch of washed out grays during the end fight and the stake out at the killer’s home. However, besides the light banding, I did not see any compression issues, or other artifacts present, and the resulting image looks REALLY nice.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50089[/img]Surprisingly, instead of just the native Cantonese track in DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1, we get a full English lossless track as well AND a pair of French and Spanish Dolby Digital tracks. Something rather unique for Well Go USA. The English and the Cantonese track sound very similar to each other mix wise, but I naturally like the Cantonese track a little better, as have a love of the original language for a film. The track itself is EXTREMELY aggressive and bombastic, showing off a ton of surround usage with a pounding score and the smash and crash of fists and legs pummeling human flesh and anything that gets in their way. Gunshots are deep and throaty, with a nice heavy low end to back them up, and the fists themselves can be felt even in the confines of your living room. Dynamic range is huge as the movie can go from a whisper to a roar in the blink of an eye. My only real complaint is that this version doesn’t have the 7.1 tracks that the Asian release had, which, while a great addition didn’t stop me from really enjoying the experience.
• Making of Featurettes
“Kung Fu Killer” isn’t a modern Hong Kong action movie, but it’s not completely old school as well. It blends some of the cheese and honor driven mano e mano fights of long ago, but with some of the visual style and editing of modern action films. The mixture is quite a lot of fun, even though I have to recognize some of the flaws contained within. Well Go USA gives us this disc with good video, great audio, some mild extras and a gorgeous slipcover for you collectors. If you’re a fan of martial arts movies, especially good old Hong Kong martial arts, then I highly recommend you give it a watch.
Starring: Donnie Yen, Charlie Yeung, Baoqiang Wang
Directed by: Teddy Chan
Written by: Teddy Chan, Ho Leung Lau
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA, Cantonese DTS-HD MA, Spanish, French DD 5.1
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 100 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 21st 2015
Buy Kung Fu Killer On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Fun Watch
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