OBJECTIVE: Give Bill twenty bucks every month. Watch the foreign film he brings back without any subtitles. Figure out what the hell is going on.

THE KILLER (1989, Hong Kong)


REMAINING CHANGE: Enough for a large sandwich.

Konichiwa, bitches. I’m in Hong Kong and nobody understands me because I’m speaking Japanese. Cinemanaut Bill gave me a peace offering for this month’s film, because last month he had me watch an agonizingly pretentious steaming piece of trash.  Cinemanaut Bill wisely chose this movie because it depicts wavering friendships and, ultimately, the strength of forgiving the ones you love, all in exotic Hong Kong. It’s not Rush Hour 2, though. Additionally, the protagonist shoots a ton of people who’ve wronged him–that’s the part that I imagined doing to Bill.

Our protagonist, Jeffery Chow (Chow Yun Fat, motherfuckers) is an assassin trained in the art of shooting a person at least seven times. Sure, it may sound a little excessive, but moderation is for the birds.

Specifically, this dove.

The movie starts with Chow at his sanctuary, a fire hazard of a church, where he is met by a man with a briefcase. The briefcase contains money, guns, and a picture of Chow’s next target. I assume Chow needs new guns every time he does a job because he doesn’t stop pulling the trigger until it breaks off.

Chow’s target is at a club, because, in a movie, the person you need to shoot is always at a club. Like in all movies, everybody else in the club has a gun, too. Unlike in other movies, this club advertises its lounge singer with a mural outside.

You can find her in the club, garden full of buds. 

Chow enters the club and showcases his furtive skills by obliterating everything that exists inside the club. Like any good assassin, Chow kills his target and the neighborhood’s property value. In between killing every man, wall, and pane of glass in the building, Chow finds the time to rescue the singer, Jenny. Jenny is gorgeous and sings like a bird, and, as it sometimes happens to birds, she gets shot. Not a lot, though; I mean, Chow, like, barely even shoots her in the face. He basically shot her in the face as little as you can shoot a person in the face.

Melodramatic much?

Shooting Jenny in the face really upsets Chow, even though he hardly even shot her. When Chow gets upset in The Killer, it looks like he poops the saddest, most heartbroken poop. The seismic force of his tearing heart resonates throughout his body until it opens an anal fissure in his sphincter.

“She was so young and –“*fppppttt*

“The sadness churns my bowels so.”

“Give me your suit.”

That stick was his friend.

Jenny lives, but Chow blinds her. Proving that he is not only a brazen assassin, but a brazen stalker as well, he continues to go to the bar and watch her sing. One night on her way home, two of the worst people on the planet try to rape her, but Chow swoops in and saves her (without even shooting her this time). At this time, they are both even-Steven. However, Chow is still haunted by only shooting Jenny in the face the tiniest bit, and he begins to reconsider his career path that was probably suggested by the raddest guidance counselor ever.

Briefcase Man – Sydney, if you care about details – comes to Chow’s modest bachelor pad with the next target. One would think an elite assassin would have a better home, but maybe he does a lot of pro bono work. The two share a beer in the totally wrong way, then discuss the details.

The other person gets two sips on their turn if you break eye contact.

The target is a fat man with a little mustache who most definitely needed to be killed. If Chow refused the job, I would have taken it. Even though he accepts, Chow is hesitant to continue killing. Sydney, who is close enough to Chow to turn sharing a beer into a sacred ritual before the eyes of the one true Beer God, notices his hesitation.

Meanwhile, our other protagonist, a loose cannon cop named Inspector Lee (Danny Lee), is on a collision course with Chow. He doesn’t really like red tape and following the rules. See?

He was supposed to turn in his badge, gun, and fucks, but he didn’t have any fucks to give.

Inspector Lee is assigned to be the fat man’s bodyguard, because he’s some popular politician or whatever. Anyway, Chow parks his speedboat in the middle of a harbor during a canoe race, which is in no way suspicious, then blows away the fat man.  Then Chow drives away at very casual speed for having just murdered the mayor, and Lee follows in another boat.

By the time Inspector Lee catches up to Chow on the shore, Chow is in the middle of a firefight. You see, Chow was ambushed after the job, probably because he was going soft. Just to prove how soft he was going, he rescues a little girl who was shot in the crossfire. If you’re keeping score at home, Chow has interacted with two females, and both of them are shot immediately afterward. Chow speeds away, and Lee and his best friend/cop partner follow him to the Scared Heart Hospital– oh wait, no, that can’t be right.

They treat victims in shock. Only shock.

The hospital gets its name from the emergency room, where apparently they do not have any medical equipment whatsoever and their method of saving gunshot victims is simple CPR. Amazingly, this works, and Chow makes a narrow escape.

Chow returns home and waits for Sydney. Sydney arrives with another briefcase, but this time it is full of blank sheets of paper. Chow knows he was double-crossed, and he gets real poop-sad about it. Sydney tries to shoot Chow with a gun that Chow foolishly left on the table, but it’s empty. OH SNAP, SYDNEY, WHO GOT TRICKED NOW? Luckily for Sydney, a small army of men arrive to kill Chow. Unluckily for Sydney, Chow is adept at using a small nation’s worth of ammunition to kill six or seven men.

Chow escapes. Again. Chow is always escaping. He’s like 25% assassin, 75% Houdini. He escapes to Jenny’s house, where Inspector Lee is waiting. Jenny, blinded by a shot to the face that wasn’t even a big deal, has not developed a new sense like ESP or knowing when people are trying to kill each other.

Her Tupperware parties are even wilder.

Chow escapes. Of course. He goes to a parking garage and sees Sydney talking to his evil boss, Muhammad Ali.

George Foreman’s post-boxing career proved to be even more lucrative.

The Champ smacks around Sydney a bit because Sydney didn’t kill the clearly unkillable Killer, and Chow shoots the Champ a few times from the jeep. Like Jenny, the Champ survives. Sydney speeds after Chow until they both come to a stop outside the city and become friends again. Best Friends 4ever! Chow also mentions that he needs a place to crash, because his was kind of turned into architectural Swiss cheese earlier.

Back at Sydney’s home, Chow calls Jenny. Little does he know – or does he know? Maybe they don’t know that he knows, or maybe they know that he knows but don’t know that he doesn’t know that they know that he knows? – the call is being traced by Inspector Lee and his buddy. Chow agrees to meet Jenny at the airport, but he walks unwittingly into a trap. SIKE! Sydney dressed as Chow, Chow was in disguise all along!

Chow Yun-fat-chance-you’ll-ever-recognize-him.

Chow and Jenny escape. Now we’re getting some variety! Meanwhile, Lee’s pal gets shot dead by the Champ’s best thug. NOOOOOOOOOO. Inspector Lee rushes to Sydney’s house in a rage! “I’ll kill you, Chowwwwwww,” he screams! Probably. But Chow don’t play that game, so he points at a gun at Lee and is all, like, “Yeah right, bitch.” And then a death squad comes in behind Lee, and Chow shoots one of them, but Lee thinks that Chow is shooting at him so he shoots Chow in the arm. And then Chow is like, “Shit, dude, that hurt! We need to fight our way out of this mess, though; we should team up together.” And Lee is all, “Right on, bro. I’m sorry about shooting your arm, that kind of really sucks. I am reeling from losing my best friend earlier today; he meant a lot to me and I’m filling that enormous void he left with anger. Let’s show these losers what it’s like to be friends and good at guns. Also, where is Sydney?” And then Chow responds really suavely, “I’m not sure. Let’s kick some ass.” And they do. They fucking do so hard. Then they bail and go to the church because Chow wants to show Lee his super secret fort.

It turns out that Sydney wasn’t hiding like a little dweeb that whole time. Instead, he was going to the Champ’s house and shooting everybody. Well, first he kills a few guys and shoots the Champ, but the Champ is wearing a bullet proof vest. Then the Champ and everybody beat him up. But then Sydney has enough of that and starts killing again, then runs away with a briefcase. Sydney really loves briefcases.

Sydney drives back to the church, leading about a hundred bad guys directly to the super secret fort. He runs into the church and gets shot in the back like a Hong Kong production of West Side Story. Chow’s heart shatters and he agonizingly poops out the shards.

“Love is the strongest laxative!”

Now it’s time for Inspector Lee to be the hero. Inspector Lee comes over to Chow and says, “Look, new best friend–I need you now. When buddy cop died, I pooped an ocean of pain in my mind. But then, right after I tried to kill you, I found out you’re not just a killer–you’re a friend. And now I need you to be a friend and help me kill these bad guys, like friends do.” And Chow is like, “You’re right, broseph. I got lost in my pooping sadness. Friends forever.”

“We can eat this giant cupcake after the shootout.”

The two fight their way outside and catch up to the Champ. The Champ is holding Jenny hostage because he caught her trying to sneak outside the church, then Chow and Lee do a synchronized best-friend move and shoot the Champ. Movie over, except not because the Champ isn’t dead. In fact, he’s so not dead that he shoots Chow a bunch of time and blows out his eyeballs. Now Chow is blind, and he crawls around shouting for Jenny. Jenny, who is also crawling, reaches out for Chow; devastatingly, despite both being able to hear perfectly well, they crawl past each other and Chow dies alone.

Finally, the police show up just as all the fighting is done and the Champ surrenders. Inspector Lee walks up to the Champ and shoots him. You don’t kill two of Inspector Lee’s best friends and get away with it. He slumps to the ground and waits to go to jail.

Shit, that’s a really dark ending.

Why did Inspector Lee describe Chow as a Caucasian teenager to the sketch artist fifty times?

Nailed it.

This was dope as hell. The Killer had the perfect combination of cheese and legitimately good action sequences to keep me entertained. The old “killer with a heart of gold” trope is easy to look past. I guess I don’t hate Bill.

And now, Cinemanaut Bill ranks James on his ability to comprehend the film.

  • Nailed it: You’ve got the plot on lock, my friend. Killing and redemption and best friends and ass-kicking abound. As is usually the case with the more action-packed foreign films I send your way, the story is pretty easy to follow. Solid work. Fives doves out of five.
  • Failed it: Chow and Sydney?? Their names are Ah Jong and Fung Sei; how in the hell did you end up with Chow and Sydney? For all I know, they changed them for the subtitles. Also, I’m not sure if something was lost in translation or you just don’t understand guns, but Jennie wasn’t shot! The muzzle flash blinded her; the blood on her face is someone else’s. Four doves out of five.
  • Improved it: Poop is funny. A bag of dove shit.


James S. is a member of the Portland Comedy Co-op and doesn’t really use Twitter.