Fulltime Killer (2001)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2005-05-17
Fulltime Killer is an existential action thriller, the story of two professional assassins who live to kill. Both are act without remorse or second thoughts, are highly effective and completely relentless. Takashi Sorimachi plays O, the Japanese killer who is considered the best in his (admittedly limited) field. He kills efficiently, dispatching the target, his bodyguards and anyone who could identify him. He is quick, clean and much in demand by those who employ him. Andy Lau is Tok, a Chinese killer who wants to replace O but who is considered too showy and flamboyant. When O executes a hit he simply walks away and disappears into the crowd. Tok escapes by riding a motorcycle while a police station explodes in the background.

They are brought together by Tok’s envy of O and Tok’s desire to replace him as the most sought after assassin in Asia. While they stalk and spy on each other, they are also linked by Miss Chin, played by Kelly Lin. She is O’s housekeeper and Tok’s girlfriend but is attracted to both--she is a good girl who is a sucker for a bad boy. Simon Yam is Inspector Lee of Interpol who leads a team going after both of the killers and who (literally in one case) are always just a step behind them.

There are references galore to other movies: El Mariachi and Desperado, Blood Simple, Hard Boiled, Point Blank, The Godfather, Samurai and probably plenty of others that I missed. Even the Warner Brothers cartoons of Chuck Jones are referenced—one of the more outrageous assassinations by Tok has “Largo Factorum” from The Barber of Seville accompanying the action, in much the same way that Bugs Bunny committed mayhem to the tune of Mozart, Wagner or Rossini.

The action scenes are excellent. There are cars that blow up when shot, pistols that are accurate at 500 yards and huge shotguns that appear from beneath short leather jackets but even with these clichés the action set pieces created by Johnny To are exciting, fast paced, very violent and seamlessly shot and edited.

Sorimachi is properly dour and brooding, almost phlegmatic. His understated acting personifies the loneliness and isolation of his character. Lau, in keeping with his character, has a much more florid style—Tok could be a fulltime smirker as well as a fulltime killer.

While not exactly a return to heroic bloodshed—there aren’t any heroes here—Fulltime Killer uses many of that genre’s conventions. Very much worth seeing and recommended.
Reviewer Score: 8