Directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fa
Written by Wai Ka-Fa, Joey O’Bryan and based on a novel by Pang Ho-cheung
Cast:Takashi Sorimachi,Andy Lau, Kelly Lin, Simon Yam, Cherrie Ying, and Lam Suet
Two high profiled hitman clash as both seemingly fall in love with the same woman.
Fulltime Killer is probably one of the extremist examples of the heroic bloodshed genre. Fulltime Killer takes the conventions popularized by John Woo then strips away the old-fashioned bravado and sensibility in favor of some kind of a pastiche that is a supercharged self-referential parody and zany balls to the wall action film. Fulltime Killer unashamedly delights in its excessiveness and sheer insanity. It takes the already light on logic gunplay that John Woo popularized and intensifies it.
This is an overblown production that does throw caution to the wind but there is a method to all of the madness. A great use of locales spread across South East Asia and East Asia that evokes a strong cosmopolitan feel. The international trek really does furthers the scale of the plot. Johnnie To has already proved he isn’t no stranger and quite adept at stylized cinematography with The Odd One Dies. Fulltime Killer’s cinematography while not full-blown stylized still retains a sense of allure. Such as the odd moments with blue lighting do feel intimate or the visual fade-outs involving Lok Tok-wah’s past are shockingly emotional in a story where deaths are treated little more than inconveniences.
Lok Tok‑Wah is a kind of a sadistic bastard that takes way too much delight in his own shooting sprees and even indulges in making them ”creative”. Lok Tok‑Wah’s crazy antics inject the right amount of lunacy to get an enthralling sense of fun.
O, the Japanese hitman and Lok Tok‑Wah’s rival. O’s personality is closer to the depiction of a ”traditional” hitman. A cold stoic and impersonal killer. O isn’t without heart but it takes a while for his coldness to go away. A cold-blooded murder on the part O does color your perception of him. I’m on the fence if that murder was necessary since it does make him less likable. However, whatever he is lacking to be likable, he does make up for it with his coolness somewhat.
Ms. Chin does come off little more than an awkward mild-mannered person just seeking some adventure in in her dull life. Despite this first impression, she isn’t the total damsel in distress since she is able to maintain calm and composure when things turn intense.
The world in Fulltime Killer functions basically as a playground for O and Lok Tok‑Wah. Subtlety isn’t apparently part of anyone’s agenda here. It might affect your suspension of disbelief a bit but you’ll just accept it as a natural part of the shootout galore. The overabundance of pop culture references might feel like a page out of Quentin Tarantino’s handbook, however, it is a worthy tribute to varying genres that Fulltime Killer emulates and spices up the generic set-up. Fulltime Killer exceeds in being high octane fun that sacrifice a kind of plot yet at least character development isn’t totally sacrificed. It isn’t just adrenalized shooting galleries. Chin’s relationship with both of the hitman which could have easily descended into a messy love triangle gives us some emotional heft.
Fulltime Killer’s final act is probably its most controversial element. It comes off as an awkward epilogue that feels out of step of what is supposed to be there. It puts a sort of unnecessary supporting character at the forefront at giving us closure. It can be appreciated for its attempt at a meta-commentary. You’ll still wish it didn’t grind everything to a halt in such a haphazard way. The final showdown still has high-stakes riding on it just not in the way you would expect.
Fulltime Killer is a pure adrenaline rush that takes charge of its own self aware madness for the sake of some blood pumping gunplay and an amusing chaos.
PS: The same libary that was featured in John Woo’s Hard Boiled makes an appearance.