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Hong Kong Nocturne: The Films of Johnnie To

Thursday, May 29, 2008
8:15 p.m. Fulltime Killer
Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai (Hong Kong, 2001)

(Quan zhi sha shou). “I like action movies, as long as they have fresh ideas,” boasts Andy Lau’s over-the-top assassin in—what else?—an action movie with fresh ideas, a chaotic comic-book montage of film tributes, video-game restagings, and pulp-novel conceits that makes the then faddish Quentin Tarantino look like Robert Bresson. Lau is Tok, an ex-Olympic sharpshooter turned leather-panted assassin who models his “hits” on various films (Desperado, Leon, and Point Break are the heights of his cinephilia) when he’s not going into inopportune epileptic seizures. His main rival is the Japanese killer O, a more subtle type who prefers to kill (and live) silently. Meanwhile, two Interpol agents are on both their trails, while a mousy video-store clerk becomes their shared love interest. To certainly milks his camera-crane rental and explosives crew, turning Fulltime Killer into a swooping, glorious fulltime assault on logical narrative, and fittingly (and literally) going out with a bang.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Wai, Joseph O’Brien, based on the novel by Edmond Pang. Photographed by Cheng Siu-keung. With Andy Lau, Takashi Sorimachi, Kelly Lin, Simon Yam. (102 mins, In Cantonese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Palm Pictures)