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Naked Killer

Fox // R // July 22, 2003
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted July 14, 2003 | E-mail the Author
In this signature example of HK action excess, a traumatized cop, Tinam (Simon Yam, Dr. Lamb, Fulltime Killer, Bullet in the Head), who following the accidental shooting of his brother is rendered nauseous when drawing his gun as well as perpetually impotent, meets man-hater Kitty (Chingmy Yau New Legend of Shaolin, Royal Tramp, City Hunter), and it is love at first sight. That first sight is Kitty taking a pair of scissors to a hairdressers crotch after he rudely hits on her. Tinam's attraction is both a aesthetic one (she has reawakened his dead libido) and one of curiosity because her particular means of attack resemble a rash of man murders that have been occurring.

The brakes are applied to Kitty and Tinam's budding romance after she kills a man who was having an affair with her stepmother, the discovery of which resulted in her fathers death. It is during her escape from the mans cronies that she is rescued by Sister Cindy, a professional hit woman, who recognizes within Kitty the same spunk and edge that are the makings of a good assassin. She trains Kitty in the art of killing and seduction, gives her a new name, and the warns her about her former protégé, Princess (Carrie Ng, Sex and Zen, Remains of a Woman), a ruthless assassin who is gunning to be the top dog in the underworld. Princess and her lackey Baby begin to take out her competition, her mentor and anyone close to them, putting Kitty, Sister Cindy, and Tinam's lives in jeopardy.

Naked Killer (1993) was sort of the Charlie's Angels of its day, a campy bit of fluff Hong Kong style, a marriage of tight outfits on alluring women, soft core titillation, gunplay, humor, and kinetic action direction. It is a sugary confection that doesn't take itself too seriously and will one moment make you chuckle at the absurd drooling rapist Kitty is locked in a basement with as part of her training and then in the next second wince as she splits his head open.

Courtesy of producer/HK visionary Wong Jing (God of Gamblers, High Risk) and director Clarence Fok (aka. Clarence Ford, Dragon From Russia, Her Name is Cat, Martial Angels), this is a movie that helped push the boundaries of style in HK film. While the "girls with guns" genre had been a mainstay in HK film, movies like In the Line of Duty weren't too far a cry from the "guys with guns genre". That is, they usually had the same macho tone only with female leads dishing out the punishment. In contrast, Naked Killer looks like a Red Shoe Diaries if filmed by Seijun Suzuki and revels in its female seductiveness and flesh, lipstick and fashion, just as much as the testosterone gunfire and bruising high flying kicks. It is a perfect marriage of style, action, casting, and character (particularly the scene stealing Princess) and all around fun, empty, kitsch entertainment.

The DVD: Fox. This is a butchered print missing a few key scenes. Oddly, you can glimpse the scenes both in the trailer and in the interview section of the extras, so someone involved in the production had to know they weren't working with a complete print when going into the final product. Why on Earth they would trim the scenes is beyond me. Don't buy the rights to an exploitation film if you dont' want to sell it in all its glory.

I guess I should also note for the unaware, that despite the title and all my talk of its flesh, Naked Killer does not feature explicit nudity. Chingmy Yau always keeps her choice bits cupped and covered, and the films actual nudity is minor and mainly in the scenes that are excised from this editions print.

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Unfortunately part of Fok's stylistic vision for the film is a lot of soft focus filters, which keep this very cleaned up transfer from looking absolutely perfect. That is, there is much improvement in most areas like color and print cleanliness, but the film still appears a bit too soft and dulled in contrast due to Fok's lensing. Really it is the color that one should be paying attention to and it is hard not to with Fok's use of striking hues (like the lavender walls contrasted by flowing yellow curtains in Sister Cindy's apartment and other set designs) that are Argento, Bava, or Bertolucci-worthy.

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Cantonese or English audio tracks with optional Chinese or English subtitles. Despite all of the remixing the dub audio is still pretty hollow and centered. Every now and then the action fx or music fills out the side speakers but it doesn't add much. But, the audio does get the job done and the dubs are both quite silly, after all it is a silly film. It should be noted that there is an odd bit of bleeping in one scene on the Cantonese track (I always assumed for comedic effect that they were bleeping dirty words), but the same bleeping doesn't occur on the English dub. Subtitle translation is an improvement over the old flubbed English HK translation.

Extras: Chapter Selections--- Two trailers for the film (original theatrical and a new one) plus trailers for City Hunter, Magnificent Warriors, Magnificent Butcher and Hong Kong 1941.--- Photo Gallery--- HK Beauty Star Gallery, a montage of HK actress film stills (some unflattering) set to music.--- Promo Materials--- Production Notes (Synopsis, Cast and Crew, and Simon Yam and Chingmy Yau filmographies)--- Interviews with producer Wong Jing (8:48), actor Simon Yam (7:05), and director Clarence Fok (9:53). Decent, concise interviews including nice little tidbits like Wong Jing, somewhat surprisingly, expressing his admiration for Norman Jewison, and Clarence Fok talking about his reluctance to film actors/friends in nude scenes, so that is why he didn't make many more films like Naked Killer despite its success.

Conclusion: If it were an uncut print then it would get a definite recommendation and a higher rating. Naked Killer is an HK classic and good example of HK action style and off the wall film making. It is a real downer that they didn't use an uncut print for the transfer. At most, it is worth a casual rental to watch the good but butchered print and the extras. If you want the definitive version of the film stick with old the HK import that, while of lesser quality, at least it gives you the whole picture.

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