Johnny To’s “Fulltime Killer” has all of the visual insanity of some of Tsui Hark’s latest (Time and Tide and “The Legend of Zu”), with none of the confusion. Let’s face it, Hark seems to be more concerned with jamming his films to the brim with all the latest visual effects, while letting story take the backseat. Johnny To has picked up that ball, creating not only his best film since 1999’s “Running Out of Time,” but one of the most exciting action films to come out of China in recent years.
In “Fulltime Killer,” assassins O and Tok are in competition to become top professional killer of the world. While O is cold and calculating, Tok is flamboyant; his love for movies sees him making a full spectacle out of each of his hits. Throw in a love interest and an angry police chief and it’s a full-blown fandango.
Exciting, but not completely original. For the first third of the film, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching a rehash of Wong Kar-Wai’s “Fallen Angels.” Not in the sense of story really, but actual scenes. In “Fallen Angels,” the assassin runs into an old school chum on the bus. The killer is calm and gives a polite brush off, moving on with his business. In “Fulltime Killer,” O, in the middle of a hit, runs into an old school friend, having to kill him to keep his identity secret. Also, in both films, the assassins have beautiful young women cleaning up their hideouts while they’re away, keeping a distance between them. On top of that, all of the characters were a little eccentric, in a cute Wong Kar-Wai way. Is it just me? Am I the only one that feels this way. Bullshit…or not?
Once I got past that, I was able to enjoy this fast-paced actioner that filmmakers like John Woo and Ringo Lam wish they could find it in their balls to make nowadays. Let’s hope Johnny To remains in Hong Kong. I’d hate to see him tainted by the Hollywood film industry. They took down John and Ringo and they’ve turned Jackie Chan into the new Bozo the Clown with a penchant for handing out a*s-whoopings. Stay away, Johnny…stay away.