Fulltime Killer (2001)

Directed by
Some novels should stay on paper
Reviewed by Simon on 2001-11-22

O (Takashi Sorimachi) is Asia's top assassin. He gets the job done, he is efficient. Tak (Andy Lau) wants his crown, however... taking the dirty jobs and working cheap, he is the opposite of O... flashy and attention seeking, inspired by the action movies he loves. They both fall for the same girl (Kelly Lin), and are both wanted by mildly crazed cop Simon Yam. Onwards towards conflict.

FULLTIME KILLER is based on a novel, and it clearly shows in many places... the voice over monologues in particular scream "novel". Translating a novel to a movie is a difficult task, as the mediums have very different strengths and weaknesses. To be successful in the task, I think it is not a good plan to try to reproduce the novel in visual form, but rather to take the core elements and translate them to a movie format. FULLTIME KILLER fails to do this IMO, suggesting that Wai Ka-Fai couldn't find a good core to build his script around. The result is a rather unfocussed and disjointed plot, that doesn't quite seem to know who it wants to focus on or where it wants to take things. At the end of the movie I could think of several ways that the story could have been much better carried by the movie - moving some of the end nearer the beginning and making Simon Yam's character the viewer's main contact with the story would have been best I think, though Kelly Lin's character could have worked too. Instead, we get a little bit of Andy, a little bit of Takashi, a little bit of Kelly etc. Interesting sections that don't gel together all that well. None of the characters are well developed at all as a result, though Lau's Tak fares better than the rest.

The main strength that movies have over novels is obviously the visuals, and FULLTIME KILLER makes good use of these strengths, with nice cinematography throughout, especially in the action scenes. The action scenes we get are pretty exciting and ballistic - quite brutal in places too. Johnnie To is definitely one of the best action directors working today, with almost as much of a 'feel' for the mechanics and mood of a shoot out as John Woo or Tsui Hark. However, we know that he can do *much* better with his characters than he does in FTK too.

Definitely a film that merits watching, but one of Milkyway's weakest films to date IMO. Extra minus marks for the soundtrack, which is never particularly effective and occasionally annoying.