Within what surely was akin to but not as much of a steady production line of gangster- and action movies comparewd to Hong Kong, Taiwan cinema had some, even limited time in the sun in the 90s and based on the crude but sincere and energetic efforts in Chen Chu-Huang's The Dignified Killers, it should've been acknowledged more as an action cinema that could ALMOST do as well as its Hong Kong counterpart. A little bit more crappy-factor and lacking in the star department, it makes up for it by employing the stance of playing by no one's rules but its own.
Huei (Lam Wai - Long Arm of The Law) returns home and gets heavily involved in gangster activity once more working alongside boss Luo (Ku Feng). Re-connecting with friend Ping (Emily Chu - A Better Tomorrow) who's now working as a bar girl to earn money for her father's operation, gangster activity is now mixed with romantic activity. Something that enrages Huei's triad brother Sen (Lung Siu-Wa) to the point of betrayal...
By appearing just a little bit more crappy and grungy, The Dignified Killers actually does seem to provide a fitting snapshot of one such underworld. As always, it can be a bloody underworld and brotherhood can be as well. But the low rent fictional look that is all due to a low budget anyway (actors literally looked like they showed up in their own wardrobe), where the passion of the filmmakers lie is in a free for all thinking that is mainly going to go gory (not bloody) routes. Yes, initially machete- and knife-brawls are given the prosthetics make-up treatment as Lam Wai hacks through opponents and blood is sprayed pretty much everywhere including onto the lens that transitions into the James Bond style credit sequence that has little logic within the movie other than it's a whimsy that the filmmakers chased and caught. Sense a sensory overload? In the best of ways and while the movie can't keep up this furious pace and stance, The Dignified Killers appeals due to its eagerness to please and even surprises the audience that were expecting something more standard from Taiwan.
Phoning in his performance quite perfectly, the suave Lam Wai chops and blows up people gleefully and then does something gangsters rarely do nor should do: fall in love. That deep into the jiang hu, surely no one is able to break out without getting a little betrayal and resentment thrown their way. Coupled with Emily Chu essentially bringing in stray girls (such as Lam Siu-Lau who played Peach Boy in the wild Taiwan fantasies The Child Of Peach and The Magic Of Stell) and establishing a sisterhood that can kick ass as well, her and his strands connect but within the movie we're dealing with somewhat wildly different scenarios too. One doesn't mind when pace is usually fast and when you get a bloody male gangster saga and a bloody female revenge angle, The Dignified Killers fulfills desires and isn't pretentious about it either.
Through gunplay in quantity rather than style, the entire affair is as mentioned somewhat crappier than what Hong Kong special effects crew were capable of but being gleeful about wanting to feature a lot of blood doesn't require meticulous style. No The Dignified Killers is a bloody mess but it's hard to knock it as a film due to its basic angle, its feature just because-stance (again that credits sequence) and truth be told, we get primal rage here whether it's through crudely staged gore, rape or a silver suit female fighting females. It kind of has it all or a lot and it scores on it all or a lot.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson