Naked Killer (1992)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-02-12
There are a lot of reasons to like “Naked Killer” not least the mind-boggling appearance Chingmy Yau. Having watched this movie again, several years after seeing the first time, I can now trace my extreme interest in Chingmy Yau—she is costumed, made up, lit and shot to take full advantage of her already very striking good looks. The flame of the affair between her and Wong Jing must have burned its hottest during the making of “Naked Killer”—while he wasn’t the director here, no one has ever made an actress look better on film.

But this is just the beginning of why this is such a worthwhile, if trashy, movie. The storytelling is straightforward and unencumbered by subplots and extraneous characters that are common in melodramatic Hong Kong crime dramas. While there is the requisite and, in this case, delightfully degenerate, comic relief—how could there be a movie about dueling gangs of Lesbian killers for hire without a few laughs—it is actually funny. And the omnipresent Wong Jing trope of vomiting is made part of the plot.

Director Clarence Ford and his cinematographers use quite a few hackneyed camera tricks—low angle shots, high angle shots, tilting the film plane, shooting up or down stairs, even shooting through middle of a spiral staircase—to excellent effect. They are not only effective in themselves, for example making a two person chase scene more visually interesting, but also serve to show the disorientation of the characters, especially Simon Yam’s Tinam. In a continuing reaction to accidentally shooting his brother to death during a chase, Tinam vomits whenever he pulls his gun and gets dizzy when chasing a suspect. Some of the shots also show off Chingmy Yau, such as the one shot from the bottom of a stairway. She is midway up the stairs, looking at the camera and wearing very brief, very tight red hotpants. The shot fairly screams: “Yes her legs are really this long and look this good”.

A movie like this is almost actor proof—attractive people acting outrageously and filmed to show them at their best doesn’t require much acting. Unfortunately it also means that the range of expression necessary is limited—any performance more than adequate would stand out like a hooker at a convention of nuns. So everything is completely on the surface. There is no point in looking for any deeper meanings since it is all unspooling on the screen. There may be something here about the role of women, especially gay women, in Chinese society as the last century drew to a close but the images of Chingmy Yau and Yiu Wai talking about masturbation while lying on a an oddly shaped couch (shot from above) or the gorgeous Carrie Ng fondling Madoka Sugawara may be more lasting than any subtext.

Most of the action scenes were (obviously) doubled fights or standard issue gun fu. An outstanding moment came during a battle in a multi-storied parking garage. Kitty and Cindy are being pursued by several score of triad gunmen. Between them they had already killed the triad chieftain who had killed Kitty’s father and had also dispatched roomfuls of his armed underlings—this is one of the movies with an unending and ever increasing supply of tough guys with guns so no matter how many are shot there are always plenty of others. Ignoring the fact that the bodycount was already approaching triple figures, the loyal criminal subordinates chased the deadly damsels who tried to escape in Cindy’s car. They hadn’t counted on her exploding hat—the millinery designer should have won an award, all the hats were gorgeous but only this one was deadly—or her ability with a knife attached to a line. In one case she impaled a bad guy with the knife and pulled him out of the car he was in and into the path of an oncoming vehicle by simply tugging on the line. Another very effective part of this battle was when Cindy leapt into the air and smashed feet first through the windshield of an approaching car, killing the driver. Earlier the redoubtable assassin had killed a target by crushing his head between two dumbbells as she swung from her knees on a chinning bar.

It was obvious that Cindy was at the top of the Lesbian assassin world, but there will always be someone younger, fitter and possibly even deadlier on her way up. This was Princess whose techniques borrowed from the old Allied Chemical slogan “better living through chemistry”. Princess was as smug and self-assured as any villain, female or male, onscreen and deserved a flashier or at least more emphatic death.

Much was borrowed from “Basic Instinct”, especially the infatuation of the cop with the gorgeous suspect he is investigating. There is also her huge house on the water, her sunbathing nude when Tinam and his partner show up and the maid who brings her a wrap. A scene that might have been shortened was when Kitty, after talking to the cops briefly, goes into her bedroom to change to accompany them to headquarters. There is a very abrupt cut here—in “Basic Instinct”, in essentially the same scene, we see Catherine Trammel as seen by Nick Curran, slide a dress over her naked body. This also, of course, sets up the notorious and much parodied shot of Sharon Stone uncrossing her legs while half the police force watched, a scene that isn’t in “Naked Killer”.

One place where the comparison breaks down completely is when Catherine Trammel is told that smoking is prohibited in police headquarters—that particular public health initiative hadn’t taken hold in the Crown Colony in 1992.
Reviewer Score: 7