Coolie Killer (1982)

Directed by
Dark, violent landmark action movie
Reviewed by Simon on 2001-07-18

COOLIE KILLER - the film that John Woo would spend the next 10 years trying to make? (err, and succeeding). A dark and violent tale of a professional killer who becomes "the hunted". It took a while to adjust to Charlie Chin playing a hard-boiled killer, since the only things I've seen him in before are the "lucky stars" family of films, but once I adjusted he did a pretty good job of it.

The film comes across a little like Sonny Chiba's The Streetfighter, but is more coherent. The plot is a little bit OTT, but this can be forgiven for when it was made (1982). The cinematography is excellent and creative throughout, and the action scenes were well ahead of their time. There are scenes that John Woo could be accused of copying in A Better Tomorrow, The Killer and Hard Boiled. John Woo does them better, but Terry Tong was there first, and for quantity and creativity I think it's a landmark. The film is very violent - some of the brutality is almost unnecessary, but feels more at home in the film than in Kiss Of The Dragon for instance.

Definitely a HK landmark, but I couldn't help thinking that there are probably a lot of Japanese Yakuza films that are similar but that I haven't seen. Overall it's an excellent film and definitely recommended, though the Mei Ah DVD almost ruins the experience. The grainy transfer isn't too bad, kind of fits the film in fact, but the subtitles are abysmal. There's hardly a single line in the whole film that makes grammatic sense, and there are several exchanges where you know something important was just said but the subtitles meant nothing. There isn't likely to be a better presentation any time soon though.