ASIAN FILM - Article
15:00 - 9th May 2015, by David West

Death By Kung Fu

Someone is hunting the top fighters of Hong Kong, defeating each master at their own game and leaving a trail of broken, battered corpses in their wake. Ma Hahou (Donnie Yen) is in prison after accidentally killing a man in a fight, but he convinces Detective Luk (Charlie Yeung) that he is the only person who can track down the murderer by predicting their targets. She has him released to assist the investigation, but as the body count rises, Detective Luk begins to suspect that Ma has his own agenda – and a connection to the mysterious slayer stalking Hong Kong’s martial arts masters.

The last time Donnie Yen and Teddy Chen worked together was on the period adventure Bodyguards And Assassins. Chen was considering making another story set at the turn of the 20th century like Bodyguards... but he wanted to stand out from the pack. “I love kung fu,” he says. “I’ve met a few kung fu masters so I wanted to create a story about martial arts, but I was too slow. I spent two years writing a script, but in those two years, there were so many kung fu films about that period, so who wants to see more of those films? I didn’t want to give up. One of my team said, ‘Teddy, you have a serial killer script from three years ago. Why don’t we put the two elements together?’ I said, ‘Wow, that’s a great idea,’ so it became a kung fu serial killer movie.”

The first order of business was creating the lead character. “I didn’t want the good guy to be pure, so he’d killed somebody before, then he’s thinking about how to become a good person again,” says Chen. For the all important role of martial arts killer Fung Yu-Sau, Chen chose Wang Baoqiang, whose credits include Jia Zhangke’s superb A Touch Of Sin and Feng Xiaogang’s wartime blockbuster Assembly. Fung has a club foot and one leg shorter than the other, but despite this is still incredibly lethal. “When I see the Paralympics, these people are tough,” says Chen. “I have a friend who is handicapped but he’s very strong, he’s a cameraman. He wants to show you, ‘I’m okay, don’t worry about my leg’. So some of the idea came from that.”

Kung Fu Killer is packed with cameos by famous figures from Hong Kong cinema, including the founder of Golden Harvest Raymond Chow and retired kung fu stars like Tsui Siu-Ming and David Chiang. How did Teddy Chen convince everyone to appear in the movie? “Because they knew that I’m doing this film from my heart to pay tribute,” he explains. “To make good action films you need not only the superstar, someone who can fight, you must have a good investor who trusts you a lot, a good team, good stunt people, so when I told them the reason I invited them to be part of my film they all said, we’ll come. It’s a tribute to them. It’s not only to tell the whole world, I have to tell the teenagers in Hong Kong, these are the people who help to make a successful kung fu film.”

As Donnie Yen enters his 50s and stars like Jackie Chan move away from action roles, many have worried that there will be no one to replace Hong Kong’s action legends, but Donnie thinks the kung fu side isn’t the issue. “Everybody can study martial arts, everybody can study kung fu. Every actor can spend years, not even years, spend time and become decent at it,” he says. “Most important is the acting itself. Ultimately you still have to have a good performance. You’re always going to have kung fu practitioners. On screen it’s all about the acting.”

Given all that he has accomplished in the movie business as an actor, martial artist, and choreographer, what is Donnie himself most proud of? “I always try to choose subjects that bring positive messages, movies like Ip Man,” he says. “I’m proud of having young kids watch my films and being inspired, being positive in wanting to be a better person. I think as an actor it’s very important to remember in the back of our minds that aside from making a good film, you also have the power to influence others in a good way.”

Be inspired (hopefully not to become a martial arts serial killer!) when Kung Fu Killer comes to Blu-ray and DVD on 23 February from Signature Entertainment.

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