Killing End (2001)
by: Herman Yau
Same main cast and crew of Killing End also churned out Nightmares In Precinct 7 the same year but it also was an effectsfilled working year for Herman Yau. Not only did he shoot Tsui Hark's The Legend Of Zu, he himself directed the effects heavy Master Q 2001 but never let it be said that Herman Yau can work too much. Never let it be said also that there's no value to be found among his directed films.
When CID Dik (Andy Hui) finds out that his friend and partner Lung (Simon Lui) is in debt to the triads, led by Fai (Michael Tse) and Naja (Ng Ting-Yip), a spiral of events are triggered that can only lead one way, down. In defending of his partner, Dik kills off Fai but is acquitted at court. However, Naja isn't about to let things slide. Dik also meets an impulsive girl named June (Loletta Lee) but time comes when a choice has to be made. Loyalty or love?
Herman Yau works a lot and his end results do sometimes ring of low expectations on the filmmaker's behalf. However, Yau is no Wong Jing and operates outside of the mainstream section of Hong Kong cinema that Wong Jing resides in. They do share similarities in that once in a while, more true in the case of Yau however, the effort is turned up a few notches and for Yau, during 2001, that generated his absolutely finest film to date, the social drama From The Queen To The Chief Executive. Despite putting his all into that, Killing End does stand out as a standard cop vs. triads thriller with enough attention to characters to make it affecting.
Yau deservedly should be, in my opinion, less and less connected with his Category III outings by now and I think his working ethic do manage to win him new respect little by little, Killing End being a good example of that. This very dark and pessimistic tale of both love and loyalty plays out expected pretty much throughout but Yau makes sure interest can be invested even when the whole plan is not completely fresh. Devoid of any comic relief is a benefactor but one that isn't is the visual style for the film. Remarkably enough, he and cinematographer Yu Kowk-Ping manages to win over that critique by the end but overall, the touches with the camera are rather forced. Slow motion seems to exist whenever someone does the most trivial things and while some camera moves are actually inventive, Yau's background as cinematographer shines through way too much in a bad way in his direction. Having said that, there are a few moments where Yau successfully manages to combine an overabundance of style when using it to highlight a distinct character moment, such as June's breakouts into impulsiveness.
Killing End is not up to the set level of sophistication in terms of character portrayal that guys like Derek Yee can bring, but working with simple arcs and a dedication to get the most out of his actors, events that play out really do generate a decent amount of care from the viewer. The cop and friends partnership between Andy Hui and Simon Lui's characters has that "loyalty over everything" subtext to it but in this very pessimistic atmosphere, Yau manages to draw out real emotions from this otherwise cliché character dramatics. While surprisingly secondary, the love story between Dick and June is watchable but seems ever so lacking in content and development. Their bond seems to happen very fast and while it gets a pay off, Yau doesn't make it fly as much as I had hoped. So we have a movie with decent attention to storyelements and a focus to deliver freshness within expected plotlines, and that's good enough, even coming from the always working Herman Yau.
We're certainly not blessed with the cream of the crop here in terms of stars but for a project with modest goals beforehand, we're certainly treated to very much serviceable performances. Andy Hui has grown and matured more into decent leading man material rather than looking like a popstar trying to act and impulsiveness, intensity and sensitivity to Dick's character is handled with not so much the greatest subtlety, but as mentioned, it's all very serviceable. Due to the mentioned writing, Loletta Lee comes off as a bit rough however. Her scenes where it's suggested that her memory is deteriorating is handled with a sympathetic touch by Lee however
The real surprise comes in Simon Lui (co-writer on this film and appears in all those Troublesome Night movies) who brings a suitable low-key nature to his downtrodden character. He clearly is doomed from the moment we know of his predicament but through him, the movies comes with its most effective and even disturbing moments as he slowly descends the downward spiral. Thankfully, Michael Tse is soon out of the film as he desperately tries to emulate the flamboyance of someone like Francis Ng but definitely fails. However, Ng Ting-Yip as Naja brings a definite menace that largely works.
Herman Yau does command respect when he does come out with decent efforts such as this thriller. It's unfair to thoroughly associate him nowadays with the graphic Category III work off the past but having said that, Yau is really good at creating dark atmospherics, which is one of strongpoints of Killing End. Decent acting from people outside of the A-list also makes the movie surprising but remember though, this is really unspectacular overall so those looking for a masterpiece of Hong Kong cinema thrillers won't find it here. However, Herman Yau followers can happily add this to a collection that is more versatile and competent than given credit for.
Modern presents the film in an 1.75:1 aspect ratio approximately. There are decent enough colours here but sharpness is weak and because of very high contrast levels, this image is even more lacking. Print is relatively clean however.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track never really leaves the center channel but elements such as dialogue and score does sound clear. A Mandarin 2.0 dub is also included.
The imbedded Chinese/English subtitles do blend in too much with the background sometimes because of the high contrast but nothing that will make you lose sight of the plot. They also seems free of any noticeable grammar errors. Only extra is the trailer for Nightmares In Precinct 7.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson