Fulltime Killer (2001)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller  |   Release Date - Aug 3, 2001 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Jonathan Crow

Like many Hong Kong action spectaculars by such masters as Tsui Hark and John Woo, Full Time Killer is a wildly kinetic roller coaster of a film with lots of cool explosions and over-the-top images. In one scene, after killing a mob boss with a syringe of nicotine, Tok, dressed in a red leather jacket and a Bill Clinton mask, boogies in the streets of Wan Chai. In another, the two rivals square off in a warehouse filled with fireworks. Johnnie To's The Mission -- featuring one of the most innovative action scenes in years coupled with an oddly Antonioni-esque sense of existential gloom -- was dubbed by some as an art house action flick. Though this film is a much broader affair, Fulltime Killer still features a couple cinematic allusions -- O's obsessive watching of Chin clearly recalls Rear Window and the battle for number one killer status echoes Seijun Suzuki's masterpiece Branded to Kill -- that mark the filmmaker's sensibility. Unfortunately, the film is something of a mess even by the generous standards one might apply to Hong Kong action flicks. The tension between O and Tok never really gels, making Killer's climax less climactic than it ought to have been, and Lee's sudden conversion from a thoroughly incompetent cop to equally incompetent tortured writer seems unconvincing. Perhaps one of the reasons is language. With the exception of O, who largely sticks to Japanese, every character switches tongues -- from Japanese to English to Cantonese to Mandarin to Malay -- more often than they change their clothes. The result is the most stilted Japanese dialogue this side of a Takashi Miike film and unfortunate English gaffes like "He disappeared like an evil in the night." The actors seem to be concentrating more on not slipping up than actually acting. In spite of this, Full Time Killer is still an entertaining ride.