Executioners (1993)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-01-11
This is an atrociously made movie, bordering on inept and is only worth watching because....well, there must be some reason for watching it, since I just finished it. Among its attributes, none completely positive are:

The three female leads—each a beautiful and talented actress but none of them show any reason why they are or were Hong Kong cinema royalty. To say they phoned in their performances would be to insult the Cable & Wireless Company.

Anthony Wong gives a master class on overacting. Dressed in a foppish costume, made up to look like his face had been pan fried and with a mask that doesn’t cover his deformity Wong responded like a trouper and chewed up the scenery.

Which must not have been terribly difficult since so much of the set was astoundingly cheap looking, including bricks that bounced and a wall that shook when Maggie Cheung scraped it with a knife.

Takeshi Kaneshiro looked like he stepped out of a Biblical epic—an East Asian John the Baptist perhaps. Which make sense because he suffered the same fate as John the Baptist although his head wound up in a velvet box instead of a platter and was kissed by Anthony Wong instead of Salome. His long white robe, gold sash and almost flowing locks (the hair gel budget for “Executioners” must have been substantial) combined with his chiseled good looks would have been perfect opposite Jeffrey Hunter in “King of Kings”.

Michelle Yeoh is not only totally defeated but dismembered. One of her arms is torn off and her opponent puts his fist completely through her body. Not exactly “Wing Chun”.

Anita Mui, while in prison, realizes that her food has been poisoned—actually everyone’s food has been poisoned but she keeps that info to herself and lets the rest of the inmates die—and get nourishment by squeezing the blood from a live mouse and letting it drip into her mouth. Most of it runs down her chin.

Lau Ching-Wan dies during what might be the most unrealistic underwater scene ever put on film. He begins the scene by telling Maggie Cheung that he can’t swim, then he and Maggie jump into the water still wearing their topcoats and shoes. He doesn’t drown but is crushed to death by a huge set of mechanical jaws which operate so slowly that he has time to position himself under them and wait for the jaws to shut.

There is one memorable charater, Kau who is a combination of the Elephant Man, the Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Spencer Tracy version) and the Gimp from “Pulp Fiction”. He is a hooded monster—uncredited in the database—who is Michelle Yeoh’s sidekick/muscle/pet.

There are a few instances which would lead one to look for a Sapphic sensibility in “Executioners”, but they aren’t developed. The male consort of each of the reluctant superheroes is killed off—Michelle’s Kau dies while saving the President, Maggie Cheung’s Tak drowns, Anita Miu’s Commissioner gets blown up. This would not be enough in itself but when paired with a scene that is one of the most egregious cases imaginable of a lost opportunity it shows where the movie could have gone. The scene in question has all three of the women taking a bubble bath in a huge tub and even playing a bit of slap and tickle. The exploitation possibilities (which would never happen, of course) makes the senses reel and the mind boggle.

This potential theme is touched upon and abandoned. Other ideas are brought up and then lost in the confusion of the plot, not developed or simply forgotten about. Although set in a post-apocalyptic ruin it misses every chance to comment on how society is hurtling toward the precipice. The Clean Water Corporation could represent worldwide capitalism or the People’s Republic but winds up not representing anything at all.

The crowd scenes are very uncrowded, almost as if Johnny To or Tony Ching or whoever directed them didn’t know how to fill the screen people. The action scenes are mediocre—Michelle Yeoh has one early on when she jumps out of the cab of a moving truck to thwart a would be hijacker. It was one of those automatic pilot trucks that stay on the road while the driver is on the roof fighting. There is also a decent swordfight between the Colonel—whose uniform would not look out of place on a Tin Soldier in “The Nutcracker”—and Anita Mui that lasted about about five seconds but the action generally was poorly staged.

If it weren’t for such a horrible waste of a talented cast “Executioners might be a movie that is so bad it is good—or at least good enough for midnight screenings in college towns. But since everyone involved must have been having a bad bunch of days—or had left their “A” game on the set of “The Heroic Trio” it is simply terrible. Not something that Johnny To would highlight on his resume.
Reviewer Score: 3