If fans are going to “Kung Fu Killer” for the martial-arts talents of Donnie Yen, they won’t be disappointed.
Coming off a successful run in the film’s native country Hong-Kong, “Kung Fu Killer” (re-titled from “Kung Fu Jungle”) is getting a limited release in select theaters in the Los Angeles area, and other several other metropolitan areas this weekend, courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.
In “Kung Fu Killer,” Yen plays an incarcerated martial-artists and police defense-instructor named Hahou Mo, who learns of a string of brutal murders from the news in which the victims are retired, expert martial-artists. Seeing this as an opportunity, he reaches out to the police to provide his insight and expertise, only to mistrusted every step of the way or worse: suspected of secretly aiding the killer and attempting escape.
At 51, Donnie Yen can still deliver solid martial-arts sequences, both as a performer and choreographer. Unlike the slapstick-inspired methods of Jackie Chan or the fundamental mastery of Jet Li, Yen has always been much more experimental in his offerings, as seen in both “Flashpoint” and “SPL – Kill Zone.” His style of action works great with the overall story and conceit of his latest film. When up against the wild, feral nature of the killer’s fighting style, Yen’s mix of MMA and Wing-chun make for exciting confrontations. Other than some weaker moments involving CGI, the action—specifically the fighting—is pretty great; badass as usual. The finale alone should give audiences their money’s worth.
However, outside of the martial-arts is a pretty standard cop thriller. The pairing of outlaw and police officer feels familiar, having the same type of “why’s he helping us?” tension that’s seen in other, similar procedurals. While the action sequences sprinkled throughout the investigation keep the film propulsive and also build-up the film’s main threat—they’re far too brief. It ditches much of the energy and drive of director Teddy Chan’s previous film, “Bodyguards and Assassins,”especially during the finale. Some of that impact would’ve been great here, but outside a handful of great action scenes, the central mystery in “Kung Fu Killer” isn’t all that exciting.
Still, many see a Donnie Yen to see him kick butt and he totally does in “Kung-fu Killer.” Despite starring in some lesser films in the past few years (e.g. “Special ID” and “Iceman”), “Kung-fu Killer” is definitely a better film from the martial-arts superstar.
Director: Teddy Chan
Written by: Teddy Chan, Ho Leung Lau, and Tin Shu Mak
Runtime: 100 min